California’s Cannabis Race to the Top

The drug war now has a race problem.  With cannabis newly legal, cities are making the case that legalization doesn’t have to.

The city of San Francisco announced this week that it would wipe out or reduce the sentencings for all cannabis-related crime convictions, misdemeanors, and felonies, dating back to 1975. This means thousands of people who are serving time or who have served time will have their cases reviewed, and will have their paths cleared to either be released from jail or to pursue housing, jobs, and other life necessities that they’ve previously been barred from due to the drug convictions.


In essence, San Francisco is resetting the clock on the War on Drugs, at least for cannabis. The city is expanding upon Proposition 64, the state law that went into effect this year that makes amnesty for weed-related crimes a condition for legalizing cannabis in California.

As incredibly progressive as that ordinance is, San Francisco is not alone in attempting to work racial equity into the new legalized cannabis landscape. Cities across California and other states are upping the racial equity quotient in various ways, in what looks like a race to the top for seeking true racially and economically inclusive outcomes. As city leaders scratch their heads over how to realize real racial equity in policymaking, the legalized weed experiment is acting as the test case, and is already proving itself sticky enough that cities are almost competing to be the most weedfully woke.

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