Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s took advantage of the 420 weekend to call for the reform of marijuana laws and the expungement of past convictions for cannabis possession. In a tweet and accompanying video posted on Saturday morning, the Vermont-based company called attention to the racial disparity in the enforcement of cannabis laws.
“It’s hard to celebrate 4/20 when so many people of color are still being arrested for pot,” the tweet reads. “We have to do better.”
Racial Bias in Cannabis Enforcement
The campaign continues on the Ben & Jerry’s website, where the famously socially conscious company noted that marijuana policy reform has made great strides in recent years and that “fans of cannabis can celebrate 4/20 openly and in style in more places than ever before.”
Even in states that haven’t yet legalized cannabis, 420 celebrants are unlikely to be hassled by the cops, the company says, “if you’re a white person.”
Ben & Jerry’s also noted that people of color are underrepresented in the growing cannabis industry while facing criminal charges more often.
“If you love pot AND you’re white, everything is totally awesome these days. In 2017, 81% of cannabis executives were white. Meanwhile, even in states where pot is legal, and even though Black people and white people use pot at similar rates, Black people are still arrested way more often than whites. We love 4/20 and we love legalization, but that’s not OK.”
Even in states that have legalized cannabis, African-Americans are disproportionately facing charges for cannabis offenses, notes Ben and Jerry’s.
“Take a look at Alaska, Colorado, and Washington, DC, all of which have legalized pot. In Alaska, Black people are still being arrested 10 times more often than whites. In DC, they’re arrested 4 times more. In Colorado? Three times.”
Ben & Jerry’s also notes that the fledgling cannabis industry is predominately owned and managed by whites, including former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who was “unalterably opposed” to legalization when he was in office. Even after changing his stance and investing in and becoming a board member of cannabis firm Acreage Holdings, Boehner said that “the whole criminal justice part of this, frankly, it never crossed my mind.”
Ben & Jerry’s is asking the public to join them in the call for the reform of cannabis laws by launching a petition calling on Congress to expunge prior marijuana convictions and provide amnesty or pardons to offenders. The petition can be signed on the company’s website and as of Monday morning had garnered more than 30,000 signatures. The company praised cities including Seattle and San Francisco that are proactively expunging convictions in their jurisdictions and urged that the trend be continued nationwide.