Democrats in Washington state are cracking down on marijuana — not the actual drug, the word itself.
The Evergreen State legislature recently passed a bill banning the word “marijuana” from official state law and documents over concerns that it is “racist.” At the same time, to help increase diversity in the cannabis business, a taxpayer-funded task force has been spending the last two years focusing on helping minorities in Washington state break into the marijuana business.
“The term ‘marijuana’ itself is pejorative and racist,” Washington state Representative Melanie Morgan (D) said during testimony regarding the piece of legislation officially known as House Bill 1210, which she also sponsored.
“As recreational marijuana use became more popular, it was negatively associated with Mexican immigrants,” Morgan added. “Even though it seems simple because it’s just one word, the reality is we’re healing the wrongs that were committed against Black and Brown people around cannabis.”
Democratic Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill into law in March and it will go into effect in June.
Morgan also cited that Harry Anslinger, “the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (which later became the Drug Enforcement Administration) played a big role in the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which banned selling or possessing weed,” KRO 7 reported.
“It was … Anslinger that said and I quote, ‘Marijuana is the most violent causing drug in the history of mankind. And most marijuana users are Negroes, Hispanic, Caribbean, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana usage,'” Morgan stated during her testimony.
KRO 7 also reported that Joy Hollingsworth, owner of the family business Hollingsworth Cannabis Company, was appreciative of Morgan and her efforts.
“She was the one who educated us on the term and how it was derogatory and we shouldn’t use it anymore,” Hollingsworth told the media outlet. “We have a lot of people, especially in the Black community that went to prison over cannabis for years. That were locked up, separated from their nuclear family, which is huge.”
“It’s really painful for people to hear that word and it triggers them,” Hollingsworth said.
According to Hollingsworth, there is still a greater need for diversity in Washington state’s cannabis industry.
“We’ll take any win right? But we don’t want to get caught up on the performative equity piece where we’re just talking about words and not actual legislation and policy,” Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth suggested that taxes from pot sales in the state be redistributed to minority communities who have been disadvantaged under the state’s previous law which penalized marijuana dealers and drug users.
As noted by KRO 7, the state’s “Washington Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis” is intent on helping minorities have more representation in the marijuana business.
For example, in 2021, the state’s governor signed a law that makes it so that individuals applying for cannabis licenses who “have prior convictions for marijuana-related crimes, or who live in areas defined as ‘disproportionately impacted,” can “now qualify for grant funding and expert advice to help them get started in the business,” NBC King 5 reported in May 2021.
“It’s a down payment on what the state of Washington owes its Black residents,” Paula Sardinas, co-chair of the task force, said at the time. “We’re doing things to make those wrongs, right.”
Morgan had previously blamed the lack of diversity in the marijuana industry on “racism” as well.
“There are so many levels of racism in the white supremacist culture that is a part of our system that stops us,” Morgan told potguide.com in January.