Black History Month: National Town Hall Connects the Drug Policy Reform and #BlackLivesMatter Movements

February 1, 2016 - By Melissa Franqui

At a time when the nation reflects and focuses on the history, contributions and lives of Black Americans, our recent International Drug Policy Reform Conference’s town hall presents a profoundly relevant conversation on the extensive intersection of drug policy and Black communities.

Check out this powerful discussion about race, the drug war, and the intersection of the #BlackLivesMatter and drug policy reform movements:

We know that marijuana arrests are the engine driving the U.S. war on drugs. Black and Latino people are arrested at vastly disproportionate rates, even though white people use and sell marijuana at similar rates. We also know that the drug war is a primary source of funding for the tanks in towns like Ferguson, the over-policing in New York City and the unprecedented discretion given to police officers to criminalize Black people.

As an example, both Ramarley Graham and Trayvon Martin, who were both killed in February of 2012, had their alleged marijuana involvement as a tactic to smear their innocence. The murder of Trayvon Martin was the impetus for the Black Lives Matter movement and then propelled by other shooting deaths of men, women and children.

Yet many drug policy organizations have remained largely silent about these connections. With the meteoric rise of the movement for Black lives and the growing tide for broader drug policy reform, essential questions must be addressed. This dialogue speaks to how we can start to course correct and join forces to create a world where all of our communities can thrive safely.

Moderated by writer, activist and DPA’s senior director asha bandele, Connecting the Dots features Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Lumumba Bandele, senior organizer at the NAACP LDf, Kassandra Frederique, New York Policy Director, Deborah Peterson-Small, executive director of Break the Chains, and T-Dubb-O, hip hop artist and political director of Hands Up United.

Melissa Franqui is the communications coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance.

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