Many Black Families Are Finding the War on Drugs Especially Difficult

Jesce Horton still remembers the advice his father often imparted to him while he was growing up.

“Don’t talk back to police,” for example. Or, “Don’t reach for your wallet.”

Marijuana, said the 34-year-old Horton, was always a big part of those conversations. “It was something that can be used to hurt [you], to ruin your life.”

For Horton, who grew up mostly in Virginia and South Carolina, this warning was more than just a hypothetical. His father had spent time in prison for a marijuana-related charge, and the consequences of that experience weighed heavily on his family.

According to an exclusive Yahoo News/Marist Poll, 86 percent of African-Americans support legalizing marijuana for medical use, while 53 percent support legalizing it for recreational use — percentages consistent with overall national opinion. But for African-American families, for whom both religion and the devastating impact of the war on drugs wield strong influence, warming up to weed has been a bit more complicated.

“Black parents in this country have long sort of had ‘the talk’ and had to instill in their children that what may be to other kids [just a] youthful indiscretion can have dire consequences for them, given the climate and the context of their lives,” said Alyssa Aguilara, co-executive director of Vocal-NY, a grassroots organization that advocates for low-income communities affected by HIV/AIDS, the war on drugs and mass incarceration throughout New York state.

James L. Taylor, director of the African-American studies program at the University of San Francisco, studied the attitudes toward legalization of African-American voters in California as one of the co-authors of the book “Something’s in the Air: Race, Crime, and the Legalization of Marijuana.”

“Contrary to what many people might perceive in pop culture and mass media, African Americans are very conservative in the state of California on the issue of legal marijuana — at least African American voters,” who, Taylor points out, are not necessarily representative of the entire community. “Those who tend to turn out and vote are middle class, bourgeois. Voters tend to be affiliated with black religious organizations.”

Overall, Taylor found that religion, “more than anything, tends to shape attitudes around marijuana legalization.”

That was certainly the case for Jacob Plowden, whose Southern Baptist family generally viewed weed as a taboo topic as he was growing up in Virginia Beach, Va., and later New York City.

“You smoke, you’re going to hell,” Plowden said of his mother’s views on marijuana. “If you do drugs, you’re obviously a bad person.”

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Source: Yahoo News | Caitlin Dickson