Our political advocacy is based on the cultivation of deep relationships to many segments of the Black community and to use the support that this provides us as our primary leverage to advocate policy positions that are in the interest of Black people. Our ability to impact policy is based on the years of community organizing and community service that has translated to a base of support that authentically represents the depth and diversity of the Black community in Baltimore.
We also tap into the rich cultural and intellectual resources that reside in our community to form the basis of our intellectual and political analysis. Our fidelity to the Black Radical Tradition and a worldview rooted in Pan Africanism guides the intellectual production that guides our approach to our political advocacy.
One of the central aspects of the public discourse regarding marijuana legalization is the criminal justice impact of the policy of prohibition. Below are aspects of the legislation that relate to addressing the criminal justice aspects of marijuana legalization.
Curtailing the phenomena of mass incarceration by ending marijuana prohibition is one important step to repairing the harm that was done to Black and Brown people by the war on drugs. The second step requires that resources are invested directly into the communities that were harmed. There are two elements of marijuana legalization that deal with the distribution of resources. First is creating access to the business opportunities that come with the legalization of this industry. The second is directing tax revenues into the communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
The aspect of legalization that is the most complicated is structuring the regulations in such a way that directs the wealth created by the industry into the hands of Black people. There are three main issues that make this such a complicated part of the legislative proposal. First, growers and dispensaries, which are the part of the industry that generates the most wealth, are extremely capital intensive. This puts Black people seeking to get access to that part of the industry at a stark competitive disadvantage given the tremendous wealth disparity between Black folks and white people.
Secondly, there are very few government interventions that can be made that give the level of explicit preferential treatment to Black people that do not run into constitutional challenges that have plagued attempts at race specific governmental remedies. Lastly, the level of financial opportunity that exists in this industry will invite wealthy people to find ways to circumvent policies that seek to direct resources to Black businesses. For example, cannabis companies may support shadow businesses that have a Black face as a way to superficially meet “minority” inclusion requirements without actually having truly significant resources to Black people. In light of this complexity we are advocating for the following policies on business enterprises.
Creating a designation for micro business enterprises to produce and sell small amounts of cannabis can help to stave off the emerging corporate monopoly of the cannabis industry. Additionally, licensing of the auxiliary industries that have preferences for “minority enterprise” provides a pathway to directing more business opportunities to Black people.
The rubric used to determine licensure for the aspects of the industry that are less capital intensive, i.e., transportation, security, social consumption sites, should heavily weigh Black-owned businesses. This may still run into constitutional challenges but using a points system that includes additional points for Black-owned companies has been an effective way to circumvent constitutional challenges in other arenas, i.e., college admissions and affirmative action.
Communities that are most impacted by the war on drugs should get the most access to revenues. Below is our approach to getting resources in the hands of the community.
The revenue should be allocated directly to local jurisdictions so that the community can have a role in how those resources are distributed. A metric should be used to determine jurisdictions most impacted by the war on drugs, and their portions of the tax revenues should be determined by that metric. The local legislature (county council) will pass an ordinance to determine specifics of how the resources are allocated within that particular jurisdiction.
The 2021 Maryland General Assembly passed HB 670 which requires a new system for discipline statewide. It requires the establishment of Police Accountability Boards in every jurisdiction. This board is designated to represent the community in the police disciplinary process and is able to take complaints from the community regarding police abuse. HB 670 also requires the establishment in every jurisdiction of administrative charging committees. This body would review internal affairs investigations of police misconduct and will determine whether an officer will be administratively charged, meaning whether the investigation determines that wrongdoing was done.
The challenge is that there is an existing statute from 1999 that establishes the Baltimore City Civilian Review Board (CRB) that is not contemplated by HB 670. In other words, the requirements imposed by HB 670 regarding the Police Accountability Boards are at odds with the existing CRB structure and statute. We advocate that the requirements regarding the Police Accountability Boards are integrated in the CRB structure. This is the most feasible and streamline way to address the inconsistency of HB 670 and the CRB will also give the CRB more powers that residents have been advocating for.