Racial Issues

First Comes Legalization, then Comes What?

By December 13, 2016 No Comments

Tips for Washington and Colorado to Help Break the Cycle of Selective Prosecution and Disproportionate Sentencing

The recent modifications of drug laws in Colorado and Washington risk duplicating the pattern of subjugation created by current drug laws. Portions of the Washington statute, in particular, threaten to maintain the status quo and to perpetuate stereotypes of African Americans and Latinos. The states’ approaches to marijuana legalization signal that it is time now, more than ever, to reevaluate and restructure our current drug laws to prevent selective prosecution as well as the disproportionate incarceration of men and women of color. In reforming current laws, however, states must avoid incorporating terms and limitations that might trigger new forms of profiling.

Part I of this Article proceeds by exposing the disproportionate impact of drug policies on men and women of color. Part II then discusses the recent laws in Washington and Colorado and their potential for perpetuating the prevailing practice of selective enforcement. Finally, Part III espouses cautionary principles for other states considering legalization.

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