Rand Paul Calls Out a Big Problem With Marijuana Legalization Opponents

Are you opposed to marijuana legalization? If you're a old, white politician, you should probably shut your face.

"I'm not really promoting legalization, but I am promoting making the penalties much less severe and not putting people in jail for 10, 20, 30 years," Paul told Hannity on Monday, pointed out the inequity of rich white people serving no time for smoking pot while poor black people end up in the prison system. "I think it is hypocritical for very wealthy white people who have all the resources to evade the drug laws."

He's not wrong: The racial disparity in marijuana arrests is well documented by groups like the ACLU. A 2013 report found that black citizens are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though the two groups use marijuana at similar rates. 

The ACLU also found that these racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist "in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small black populations. Indeed, in over 96% of counties with more than 30,000 people in which at least 2% of the residents are black, blacks are arrested at higher rates than whites for marijuana possession."

ACLU

... blacks are still more likely to face arrest for possession.

ACLU

Marijuana legalization isn't just an economic issue — it's a civil rights issue. For many advocates, marijuana legalization isn't just a way to bring in extra tax revenue; it's a way to keep young black men from having their lives ruined by crime for which white offenders often receive a slap on the wrist.

"Marijuana possession and use has been decriminalized in Philadelphia for years ... if you're a white person," Philadelphia Councilman Jim Kenney told Mic in September after the city council approved an initiative that would decriminalize marijuana. "If you're a tailgater at an Eagle game, waiting for a Willie Nelson or Phish concert, or hanging out at a frat party, you'll basically never be arrested for possession."

"Keeping it out of the criminal courts and keeping it a civil offense is groundbreaking in Philadelphia. An arrest record for possession under an ounce results in a criminal record, which makes getting a job virtually impossible and basically makes receiving college aid or serving in the military out of the question," Kenney told Mic. "It keeps people from progressing and becoming good taxpaying citizens and it puts them on the path to towards poverty."