Oakland’s pot plan gives social justice a bad name

pot handcuffsDiscrimination masquerading as social justice is hard to hide. It emits the stink of hypocrisy and duplicity.

I wish the politicians in Oakland who recently pushed through a “race and equity” plan had simply stated they intended to reserve 50 percent of marijuana-related business licenses for minorities. Period. End of discussion.

Unfortunately for them, a power grab of this magnitude in a newly legalized industry wouldn’t fly. A long, sordid history of employment discrimination must be established before claims for affirmative action have any chance of succeeding legally.

With no hope on that score, Oakland power-brokers concocted the novel theory that because minorities, especially blacks, were victimized by disproportionate criminal prosecutions during the nation’s war on drugs, these “victims” are now entitled to special privilege in the recreational and medicinal marijuana business.

On that basis, the politicians decided to reserve 50 percent of marijuana-related business licenses for residents who meet at least one of these conditions: jailed for a marijuana offense in the past 20 years, lived for 10 years or more in one of 21 city police beats with disproportionate marijuana arrests or have an annual income at or less than 80 percent of the Oakland average.

A similar plan has been advanced in Sacramento by leaders of the African-American community.  Mayor Darrell Steinberg, according to a Sunday Sacramento Bee story, said the local advocates raised “very compelling concerns” about how marijuana-enforcement practices have hurt minority communities. He also said the City Council would look to ensure that the same populations don’t face discrimination when it comes to getting licenses to operate in the legal medical and recreational marijuana industry.

Even if one buys the idea that any minority imprisoned for marijuana use is a victim of law-enforcement discrimination, why not demand compensation from the police agencies involved?  Why add to the injustice by discriminating against law-abiding minorities or even, my goodness, whites?

Pragmatically, the “race and equity” plan hardly ensures success for businesses that could generate sizable tax revenue for Oakland. Does someone think jail or prison provides the education and training needed to run a profitable business?  Realistically, a drug kingpin who was savvy enough to avoid arrest would be a better bet.

Going further down this road of victimization and job entitlement, should the city of Sacramento consider subsidizing brothels for the benefit of minority women who have been arrested for prostitution at a disproportionate rate?

In 2015, black women in California were about 20 times more likely to be arrested for prostitution than white women, according to data from the website Openjustice. Presumably, Sacramento contributed a significant share to this inequitable enforcement.

Victims of  pot and prostitution enforcement may be entitled to special help, but their plight shouldn’t be used by politicians to advance their own self-interest while creating odious racial divisions in our society.

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