Real Talk | When the smoke clears: The legalization of marijuana in Illinois



Implicit biases that still exist with marijuana stem from “refer madness” from the early 1950s. Those biases were geared toward individuals living in poverty and the escape provided by marijuana.

The mythology of marijuana is that it causes aggression; it causes men to rape women and murder and go crazy –– heavily romanticized and biased notions stemming from recreational usage by those from the lower social class.
Illinois failed to pass a budget for three years and is still dealing with financial problems. The economic boom expected from legalization is still left up to each city based on the stigma.

As I scroll through commentary, the ugly reminder of how we haven’t changed as a country rears its head. The stigma that surrounds marijuana also latches on to race and social class — like other stigmas.

Who decides the classism of drugs? “Crack babies” are based on racial bias. The opioid crisis illustrates help is based on race. When “Blue Magic” heroin infiltrated brown and black communities, it broke apart families and killed our youth, but no one cared. There was no outcry for treatment, and poor addicts faced jail sentences.

So as we examine legalization today, who benefits? Most young men and women I know have drug cases based on something we now celebrate as a legalized substance. This is no different than when we prohibited alcohol due to the stigma against Italians.

I hear the conversations now about how thugs and criminals smoke marijuana, how it makes people crazy and violent and is a gateway drug. I laugh considering marijuana is America’s new pastime. Today the indulgence is not considered based on social class but on individual preference. But the stigma stands.

The government has realized that this is an economic boom. Those same individuals who received jail time and criminal records will now be able to smoke recreationally, but due to the stigmatized system, they remain unemployed.

So when the smoke clears the stigma stands.

Food for thought keeping it real.

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