by G. Brown
There are a lot of serious issues facing presidential candidates in 2020. And there are a lot of faces in the Democratic Primary. We started with a historically crowded field so large that debates had to be divided into two nights to get everyone on the stage and even then there was no guarantee there would be time to hear them.
The field of 24 candidates has trimmed down to 17…only 10 of whom qualified for the November debates. Still, with 10 people in a debate, that’s a lot of voices talking over one another making it hard to stand out.
There was one voice that did stand out on Wednesday night in regards to Black voters. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker captured the room when he criticized former Vice President Joe Biden for his stance on legalizing marijuana.
Biden said earlier in the week that he would not push for federal laws to legalize weeds. Booker said, “I thought you might have been high when you said it.” The audience erupted in laughter, but Booker had more than jokes, he had some hard facts about the reality about how Blacks feel going into election 2020.
Booker said Black voters are “pissed off” by political antics like “…nominating someone that doesn’t, isn’t trusted, doesn’t have authentic connection.” While candidates are debating issues like climate change and taxing the rich, many people of color and younger voters are wondering what’s to be done with topics they care about like marijuana legalization.
Booker went in on the truth of the matter saying “marijuana in America is “already legal for privileged people” and that “the war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people.”(CNN.com) Booker continued saying “our kids are in jail right now for those drug crimes…” even though many in Congress have admitted to smoking marijuana.
Booker is right. The racial disparity between Blacks and Whites is staggering. According to the ACLU, “The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias.” (ACLU.org)
The ACLU says even though as many Whites as Blacks use marijuana, “Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.” Think about it, when’s the last time you saw in your local paper or TV news a White person being arrested for marijuana possession?
Yet, despite his views on a crime that could affect their children or brothers and sisters, Biden leads the Democratic field in Black voter support.
We’re still waiting to see if the dozen or official Democratic debates are having any impact on voters. Booker may not have all the right answers on issues of impeachment, redistricting and foreign affairs, but on how the justice system is failing black and brown people when it comes to marijuana arrests, he is the only real voice on the matter.