Cannabis has been valued in cultures across the world for centuries for its medicinal and healing properties. Religions, both ancient and modern, hold it sacred for its ability to induce spiritual, inspirational experiences as a pathway to the divine. Artists, musicians, and writers, the Beat generation, the jazz culture of the ’20s, and the hippie counterculture of the ’60s and ’70s celebrated its ability to release inhibitions and inspire creativity.
But its hallucinogenic properties have also inspired fear in those who saw it as a “danger to larger society” and a “gateway drug.” Throughout the 20th century, laws were passed that criminalized marijuana and constituted it as an illegal substance, disproportionately impacting communities of color. In fact, today, African Americans are almost 4 times more likely to be arrested for possession than whites, despite similar use rates for both groups.
But there is an evolution, or perhaps a revolution, afoot. State by state, laws legalizing marijuana are starting to reverse perceptions:
While these changes mean that some individuals can now legally cash in on the growth from marijuana sales, those with past criminal convictions for possession cannot. Communities of color will continue to be disproportionately impacted unless criminal justice reform policies addressing the consequences of the war on drugs are also put in place. In Illinois, for example, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act will expunge the records of any individual with drug convictions up to 30 milligrams of marijuana and no associated violent crime.
How can everyone in our society benefit from the acceptance and freedom that legalizing marijuana offers if we don’t first address the underlying issues of systematic discrimination and criminal justice reform?
Dope Soul is our graphic celebration of the peace and healing cannabis brings to the body, the soul, and, potentially, to our nation.
Daryl Sneed / Executive & Fashion Director
Natasha Goburduhn / SOUNDOFF Contributor
Suzanne Claussen / Editor
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