West Virginia Law Makers Have a Lot to Learn about Cannabis
When I bring up the fact that Black West Virginians make up less than 4% of the state’s population but 19% of the non-violent cannabis arrests, they’re not trying to hear it." ~ Rusty Williams
There’s not a single problem that can’t be solved with a proper education. When it comes to cannabis, West Virginia lawmakers have got a lot to learn.
For nearly a decade, my life has been dedicated to ending the prohibition of the flower that got me through chemotherapy. I’ve spent countless hours pounding the marble halls of the capitol complex, talking about the immediate need to end prohibition to anyone willing to listen, and though I get a lot of credit for my work on medical cannabis, my focus has always been on decriminalization. Before we allow industry to come in here and use the cannabis plant to build their empires, it is imperative that we take every possible step to right the societal wrongs created and maintained by prohibition.
Unfortunately, unless it’s an association or a representative from some big-money lobby firm doing the talking, our lawmakers don’t seem to be very interested in listening.
When I talk about the fact that over the last decade, nationally, we saw a downward trend in the number of non-violent cannabis arrests while in that same timeframe, West Virginia saw a 49% increase, they’re not trying to hear it.
When I bring up the fact that Black West Virginians make up less than 4% of the state’s population but 19% of the non-violent cannabis arrests, they’re not trying to hear it.
When I mention the fact that nationally, Black folks are 4x more likely to be arrested for non-violent cannabis offenses but here in these hills, the risk of arrest is 7.3x the rate of whites, they’re not trying to hear it.
In the years I’ve spent engaging lawmakers on behalf of cannabis reform, I’ve been told multiple times that I need to “leave the racial stuff out of it and focus on the economics” by elected officials on both sides of the aisle. It doesn’t matter how much information is presented to back up every single claim; they just don’t seem at all interested in talking about race.
In the age of information, ignorance is a choice, and when you boil it all down, willful ignorance is drowning out reason and stomping out and all attempts at cannabis reform.
This is where you come in.
The WV Medical Cannabis Act didn’t get passed because elected officials felt like it was the right thing to do. We became the 29 th state to legalize medical cannabis because the people stood up and demanded it. We figured out how to use social media and the tools we had at our disposal to organize and establish a network of like-minded West Virginians, and as a result, we were able to successfully push a piece of game-changing legislation through one of the most anti-weed legislatures in the country.
We figured out what they’re terrified of us knowing; when we stand up together, we can move mountains with little to no money or resources.
If we stand together, we can create a cannabis industry that works to heal a century of state-sanctioned trauma. We can ensure that every non-violent cannabis offense on the books is immediately expunged. Through the implementation of micro-permits and language supporting the equitable distribution of industry licenses, we can give WV small businesses and small farmers the tools they need to lift entire communities out of poverty.
If we work together, we can put West Virginia on the path to equitable, sustainable prosperity.
There’s just no simpler way to say it; as each day of the legislative session passes, every single one of our elected officials not actively working to end the draconian prohibition of cannabis grows more and more complicit in the perpetuation of institutional racism. Maya Angelou said to “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” When it comes to the racist prohibition of cannabis, it’s time to demand that the folks we elect to represent us in Charleston and on every level of government, do better.
Please take a few minutes to call your representatives and urge them to support ending the prohibition of cannabis and get five of your friends to do the same.
Rusty Williams is patient advocate on the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, artist, activist
Sign up for our newsletter
Get the latest headlines from Black by God right in your inbox weekly.
More in Civics from Black by God
An Open Letter To Senators Rucker, Azinger, Sypolt, Karnes, Maynard and Delegates Pritt, Smith, Tully, Longanacre, G. Ward, Maynor, Crouse, Clark, Horst, and Hanna
The Tuesday Morning Group requests allocation of American Rescue Plan Act Funds to support initiatives in West Virginia’s census tracts with poverty rates 20% or higher
As West Virginia’s crisis of jail overcrowding and rising incarceration rates continue, justice-impacted people and criminal law reform advocates rallied Tuesday at the State Capitol on various pieces of legislation currently under consideration.
West Virginia will continue to have a Legislature that looks less and less like the demographics of the state as a whole, with women and people of color further underrepresented in House and Senate chambers, and with white men over-represented by a factor of 185 percent.
West Virginia has $1.335 billion from American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to spend in the next four years KANAWHA COUNTY: $34,598,499 MONONGALIA COUNTY: $20,513,893 MCDOWELL COUNTY: $3,423,255 CHARLESTON: $36,801,358 BECKLEY: $7,698,933 JANE LEW: $160,000 KERMIT: $150,000 OCEANA: $500,000
"..be able to swat down a bad-faith argument before it begins can go a long way in centering the most important topics." ~ Senator Owens Brown.
Hundreds in attendance to hear from speakers who shared their experience and expertise on policy issues impacting Black West Virginians and why it’s important for Black West Virginians to participate in the policymaking process.
On Jan. 17 nine people were arrested during a protest in downtown Charleston. The protesters were calling on Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.
"People of color need policies to thrive in West Virginia. We protest in the streets and go to court for things we are not protected by. Black people are always fighting for all and never make those elected officials accountable." Del. Walker
West Virginians and New Yorkers Demand The Passage of Voting Rights Act In Historic Black Church In Charleston West Virginia
Policy & Process
In November 2021 Black By God published an article “Young Women ‘Match Harassment’ at Abortion Clinic with Motivational Messages” 🗞 In 2022 they share that story on the WV Capitol steps.
Black West Virginians must reconsider our support of Senator Joe Manchin who blocked several pieces of legislation that could have benefited Black people.
As Senator Manchin continues to negotiate with his colleagues in Washington, our families here at home continue to suffer.
A BBG Community Journalism Project
Impression of the presentation regarding the Construction of Nuclear Power Plants In West Virginia by Samuel Moss
By Folk Reporter and Charleston Native Samuel Moss - Husband, Father, Inventor
We know there is no real democracy when the public is not actively participating in the legislative process. #useyourvoice That’s why we’re calling upon BBG readers to speak loudly through your online platforms to ensure your representatives still hear how their policy decisions will impact your life.
YOUNG, BLACK, & GIFTED in West Virginia Policy
OUR MOST READ 2021 STORY West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s Petty Pursuit Of Greenbrier East’s Boys Basketball Coaching Job
"Justice has to take everything personally because otherwise, he’d have to live in the world of facts, and those are rarely on his side."
Folk Reporters And Survey Input Needed
As we plan for a curious 2022 Legislative Session. A look back at the 2021 West Virginia Black policy agenda with BBG Folk Reporter Kate Jordan.
How public tensions of African American leaders openly advanced debate and provide forums for philosophical disagreement.
Republican Legislators Recognize Racism and White Supremacy In West Virginia.
Sen. Capito’s Lack of Support for the Freedom to Vote Act & Spread of Misinformation to West Virginian Constituents
November 5, 2021, a coalition of West Virginia Faith Leaders, Community Organizers, and Activist from across West Virginia and the country held a nonviolent demonstration blocking the entrance of Senator Joe Manchin’s Charleston office.
The window of opportunity for action on Cannabis Reform in West Virginia is wide open! Change for West Virginians is more possible more than ever before.
Much like Nero fiddling while Rome was on fire, far too many of our politicians are more interested in self-preservation than preserving our democracy.
Gun violence is the leading cause of death and disability among Black males ages 15-34. Communities of color, specifically Black neighborhoods, families, and youth, are disproportionately impacted by community violence and trauma.
West Virginia doesn’t need qualified immunity. We need assurance that our officers will truly protect and serve our communities.
While it was exciting that the WVDP finally developed the diversity caucuses, we left the first meeting with the executive committee deflated.
“We’ve had no input on this plan,” said Hollis Lewis, co-chair of the party’s recently formed Affirmative Action Committee.
West Virginia has the microphone. Use it!
How can we help the Class Of 2021 in West Virginia as they begin their lives in the adult world of decision-making?
#wvleg #wvpol #Blackpolicy
Something To Celebrate In West Virginia
As crossover day and the close of the WV Legislature is approaching, Black By God Folk Reporter Kate Jordan shares how her session began.
Enjoy Our Sunday Cartoon.