In a remark before the congressional floor, Rep. Rashida Tlaib called the war on drugs a racist project designed to target the nation’s minority communities on Wednesday. The representative of Michigan’s 13th district said this as part of an effort to push the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.
The House passed a measure on Wednesday from Rep. Tlaib that would require Congress to launch a new study on the “historically discriminatory manner in which laws related to marijuana offenses have been enforced,” and “the potential for the continued discriminatory application of the law.” The study’s findings will recommend actions to minimize the risk of such discrimination. The congresswoman also spoke about how to get Detroiters involved in an interview with BLAC’s political correspondent.
“The obvious racial disparities in enforcement show us that it still is, at its core, an effort targeting communities of color through over policing, criminalization, and mass incarceration. I’m a cosponsor of the MORE Act, which would decriminalize marijuana. And in there is an amendment that asks, ‛Where was the biggest impact of the criminalization that was happening?’. And making sure we’re prioritizing those communities to be able to access entrepreneurship programs,” Rep. Tlaib wrote in a tweet.
Engaging local advocates to work with Congress is something that Rep. Tlaib both preaches and practices. Though they may not fight in the same way or in the same spaces, she sees her efforts in Washington as a simultaneous push with activists in Michigan to create the change they want to see. The MORE Act which was passed by the house earlier this year is a strong example of this.
“People should know that it wasn’t an act of Congress that got [decriminalization] passed here in Michigan. It was a ballot measure that was incredibly successful. It was people on the ground that fought so incredibly hard when the legislature didn’t want to listen to them, they went and did it on their own,” Rep. Tlaib said. “They collected signatures, got it on the ballot, and got it done. And I know many of them intended from there to be obviously prioritization for communities that have been harmed the most from the criminalization of marijuana.”
The damage that the criminalization of marijuana and the war on drugs has done to Black and brown communities over the decades cannot be overstated. Whether absent-mindedly or on purpose, those in power at the time inflicted generations worth of pain and suffering amongst the ethnic minorities of America.
Similarly, appointed officials in the government have delivered another potentially devastating blow to communities of color by overturning Roe v. Wade. In response, many activist groups have leaped into political action trying to preserve their state’s reproductive rights. And for Michigan-based organizations like Mothering Justice, Rep. Tlaib has made herself available to help bring their voice to D.C.
“We started the Mamas Caucus with Mothering Justice. Mothering Justice is an organization made of and led by Black mothers. Many people have never even heard of Mothering Justice,” Rep. Tlaib said. “They’ve never heard of the incredible work they’ve been able to do. When I was in the legislature, at one point, there was a for-profit company that was asking for breast milk from Black mothers to sell it and to profit off of it. Mothering Justice was on the front lines to push back and expose it. So what I can do is elevate them. It’s not a small task to start a brand new caucus. But like I told them, just like I want to bring Congress to my district, I’m also bringing my district to Congress.”