Op-Ed: The Drug War, Mass Incarceration and Cannabis Equity


By Cat Brooks


It is no longer questioned that the war on drugs has disproportionately impacted Black, Brown and poor people. What is less understood or discussed are the potential impacts that the legalized cannabis industry will have on these communities.


As it stands, the bulk of the licenses held for Oakland businesses are owned by non-Black people, though the arrests, incarceration and destruction of community has rested largely on Black bodies.


What happens to the communities that are still reeling from generations of individuals who have been locked away for the possession or sale of cannabis? What happens to individuals left to languish in prisons and jails for petty drug crimes?


And what about the street corner tradespeople who have engaged in a largely safe industry when they are pushed out of business due to the gentrification of Oakland’s cannabis game?


Will they be forced into means of earning a living in another underground economy or more violent ways? With the closing of job centers, the city not applying for youth summer employment dollars and double-digit unemployment for Black residents, it is imperative that Oakland’s elected officials do the right thing for cannabis equity.


Our local leaders have a moral obligation to ensure that those most impacted, including those currently and formerly incarcerated, their families, and their communities, experience relief from the racist criminalization of marijuana.


“An injury to one is an injury to all,” and the indelible stain that this 40-year drug war has left on so many of our neighbors can now begin to be healed. Join me and a growing segment of Oakland residents in creating a more equitable city for all.


We will have a deeper discussion about the war on drugs and mass incarceration on Friday, Feb. 10 at Oakland City Hall at 5:30 p.m. after screening the documentary film The House I Lived In.


All perspectives are welcomed in this conversation and the event is free and open to community.


Cat Brooks is the Co-Founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project.


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