A Reckoning on Black People and Marijuana is a Long Time Coming

Article by Shree Paradkar, The Toronto Star

A reckoning on Black people and marijuana is a long time coming People with criminal records, who are disproportionately Black, are likely to be shut out of the legal marijuana business until the rich and powerful — including former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino — have their hooks into it, writes Shree Paradkar. As a federal cabinet minister, Julian Fantino, left, helped pass a bill that established mandatory minimum sentences on people for having as few as six cannabis plants. Now Fantino and ex-RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar are top executives in a medical marijuana company. (SAMANTHA BEATTIE / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

“Entrepreneurial” is one of the terms used to describe a bunch of Canadian bootleggers who found varying success in the illicit running of alcohol to the U.S. about a century ago.

They are portrayed as swashbuckling adventurers who dared to defy laws that banned alcohol, laws that in retrospect were not only archaic but perhaps misplaced and costly. They are fondly posited as cheeky and rebellious, the forerunners of a liberal era of alcohol-infused pleasures.

It was legal in Canada to produce alcohol — prohibition was lifted by the 1920s — while Americans still faced a ban. That illicit trade was the building blocks on which Canadian distilleries, the suppliers of that booze, made a fortune. The histories of the Bronfman family (who owned Seagram) and the Corbys, among others, are just a Google search away.

During the “roaring twenties,” says the official Bay of Quinte website, many a Canadian lad . . . risked his life during this time for the daring and dangerous life of bootlegging.”

No such indulgent descriptors — or profits — appear to await the forerunners of a Liberal era of cannabis-infused pleasures.

Canada sold $1.2 billion of illegal cannabis outside country in 2017, StatCan estimate suggests

As the banned substance begins to burgeon into a multi-billion-dollar industry, the once-petty crooks, many of them Black, with the grassroots know-how of how to run the business and who could become contributing members of society, are once again being shut out because they have criminal records.

The government has talked about amnesty for past marijuana crimes that would mean erasure of those records. But it is unlikely to take any action until after legalization — and already, others with money have plunked their grubby fingers in this pie to make more money.

This includes, of course, that shameless hypocrite and former chief of multiple police forces Julian Fantino, who helped passed into law Bill C-10 that included mandatory minimum sentences on people for having as few as six plants.

On Friday, The Canadian Press reported that a group of frustrated lawyers in Toronto is considering a class-action lawsuit against the government to push it into granting cannabis amnesty.

They should just do it.

Some advocates are also seeking an apology.

A reckoning of the unfairness with which anything related to marijuana has been treated is a long time coming.

Even the usage of the word marijuana — which comes from Mexico—came into being during the Prohibition Era to warn off Americans by appealing to their xenophobic sensibilities with the suggestion that it could lead to the intermingling of races.

Read full article here.

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