During the tough financial times of COVID, many states are turning to legal or medical cannabis to boost the economy and repair the damage done by the war on drugs. The North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice would like to see its home state follow suit in embracing the newly emerging industry.
The task force was first called by Governor Roy Cooper, who knows that the South currently has two problems to deal with in light of 2020 events: racial tension and economic hardships. Therefore, the governor used Executive Order 145 this summer to call a task force to look for solutions to the issues minorities face when it comes to daily discrimination and the legal system. This recommendation has the added bonus of seriously boosting the economy as well.
The recommendations touch on several ideas, including decriminalizing possession of cannabis. Because there were so many charges and convictions of people of color, 31,287 charges in 2019 for those who just had half ounces, to be exact, this would majorly help with social equity and ending discrimination and the war on drugs. It could also lead the way for a legal industry to spring forth in the future.
Currently, North Carolina allows CBD for medical use in some cases, but really doesn’t have much of a medical program, and absolutely no recreational legality. Like most of the South, the state has remained far away from legalizing cannabis or discussion of legalization. Now, however, the tide is starting to turn, with nearby states like South Carolina and Virginia discussing moves towards legalization, and lots of Northern East Coast states already embracing it.
Potential Impact of Legalization
However, some doubt that legalization is the best way to help with racial equity. Danny Houck, a chief deputy in North Carolina’s Ashe County, has his doubts, as many people of color are arrested for other drugs, or from other illicit activities.
“It would depend on how they legalize it, the amounts and things of that nature,” Houck said.
However, the financial impact to the state could be serious. Legal states are currently reporting a total of more than $250 million in tax money from 2018. Plus, the state is currently lacking in jobs due to shutdowns, and in addition to bringing in money, a legal industry would create a lot of new jobs.
“Today’s report is a next step towards the actions that North Carolina must take to end racial disparities in the criminal justice system, not the final word,” task force member and N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls said. “The implementation chart listing all the recommendations will help direct our work ahead and monitor our progress. I am grateful for the hundreds of people from diverse perspectives who gave us their best thinking on what needs to change; to be successful, we will need their continued involvement going forward.”
If these measures are adopted, North Carolina could be looking at a new future for both social equity and the economy.