Among the legislators who are pushing for cannabis legalization, representatives from Latino and Black communities have been the most vocal advocates.
In states such as Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, legislators have been pushing for legislation after legislation, ranging from pushing for social equity programs within drug legalization bills to addressing health disparities that have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes a legislative bill in Ohio designed to declare racism a public health crisis and turn Juneteenth into a paid holiday.
Last year in Minneapolis, Democrats successfully pushed through legislation banning chokeholds in all but the most extreme situations. Its advocates included Fue lee, a Hmong-American Democrat, who has openly stated that this would not have successfully been passed had it not been for the work put in by the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus.
Connecticut Democrats Push for Various Pieces of Legislation
Among the legislators of color pushing for such legislation include Democrats in Connecticut, who have been advancing social justice legislation since July of last year. The legislation included proposals to criminalize discrimination based on hair style.
“We pretty much said that no bill will pass if it’s not equitable to the communities of color. We pretty much said, ‘That’s our mantra,’” said Geraldo Reyes (D), chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus in Connecticut’s 18-member General Assembly.
However, not all legislators in Connecticut are as optimistic about such pushes for social equity through legalized cannabis programs that address racial and gender disparities. Among such critics include representative Kimberly Fiorello, of Asian descent, who disagreed with what she perceived as a racially charged language within the legislation being proposed.
During a committee hearing, the Republican representative remarked, “I understand the desire to legalize marijuana. But this kind of language, I don’t know that this is the proper role of government. I don’t know how. We will always have disparities in the world.”
Voting Rights Under Attack in Georgia
While successes have been seen in Ohio and Minnesota, Georgia has been advancing in the opposite direction of providing equal opportunities to the state’s ethnic minorities. Earlier this year, state Democrats in Georgia failed to stop the GOP from pushing through changes to requirements for voter registration, which resulted in a law requiring registered voters to provide photo identification for absentee ballots.
Such legislation has been seen by NALEO Education fund CEO Arturo Vargas as part of a nationwide move by Republicans to diminish the voices of minority voters.
“At some point, there will be more Latinos and Latinas and African Americans in leadership roles, and I think what the status quo wants to do is to delay it as much as possible,” said Vargas.
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