Guess who will be selling marijuana legally in Chicago.

Recreational marijuana will be legal in Illinois on January 1, 2020. This picture is from city hall in Chicago today where prospective business owners waited for the lottery to start in the hopes they would be selected for a license to sell weed.

Reminder: only 45% of Chicago’s population is white.

Once someone was drawn, they would select a part of the city to set up their business. All the licenses in Central Chicago went first (downtown) and then North. A few in the West. Nobody was picking South and Southeast. (And if you noticed this picture looks to be made up exclusively of men — you’re not far off. Sixteen people were randomly selected before the first woman got a license.)

So let’s sum this up.

Chicago has put away countless numbers of Black and Brown men for crimes related to marijuana, from usage to selling to gun possession as an extension of the black market trade. Most of them live in the southern part of the city, but the licenses will be going to white people, none of whom want to set up shop in South Chicago.

I’m excited about recreational marijuana being legalized and it’s come up here in NY multiple times. The last time it was on the table, Black lawmakers held up the vote because they refused to legalize recreational marijuana without added legislation to benefit Black & Brown communities that had been most affected by policing pot in the first place because of the bias against non-white people. In NYC, the rate of usage of marijuana is roughly equal between white men and Black men, yet Black men make up the majority of arrests for possession of marijuana. Legalization doesn’t make any of that go away magically, and all around the country, this budding new industry looks just like Chicago:

And this is why legalizing marijuana is not a topic that excites me. I don’t really care if Clint can sell weed to Chad legally because:

  1. It’s illegal now and they’re not really in all that much danger of going to jail.
  2. After legalization, people who look like me will still be sitting in jail for engaging in trade before it was legal and they will still be arrested after for engaging in black market trade in areas where they still have no access to legal trade.

So if you are a marijuana activist, keep that in mind at all times. If your push for legalization does not include policy positions that would repair the damage done by over-policing marijuana in Black & Brown communities, then your push for legalization is a selfish effort just to make it easier for you to buy weed during your daily errands.

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