The Colors of Cannabis: Race and Marijuana

19 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2017


Part of the University of California, Davis Law Review’s 2016 symposium, Disjointed Regulation: State Efforts to Legalize Marijuana, this article injects race into the discussion of the state trend to legalize marijuana by detailing the salience of race in the last 100-year life cycle of U.S. marijuana prohibition. Race has driven marijuana regulation from the initial criminalization by the states prompted by derogatory racial stereotypes, through the ongoing racialized enforcement of marijuana and other drugs in the criminal justice system. The article adds how, despite the legalization of recreational (and medical) marijuana in some states, the fruits of legalization thus far are enjoyed primarily by white entrepreneurs who dominate the industry, while racial minorities remain disproportionately vulnerable to criminal enforcement in the vestiges of enforcement that survive legalization - consumption by youths or in public places, driving while under the influence, and the ongoing black market given high taxation rates and infrastructure costs of legal sales.

Keywords: War on Drugs, marijuana, criminal justice, racial justice

Suggested Citation

Bender, Steven W., The Colors of Cannabis: Race and Marijuana. UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 50, 2016 , Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 17-01, Available at SSRN:

Steven W. Bender (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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