Portland, Maine legalized recreational marijuana use this week, what follows is a letter written by a personal friend of mine and community member Keita A. Whitten, LMSW-cc. Below is an open letter she wrote posing some interesting questions. Often times talk of legalization excludes the impact on disenfranchised communities.
Good morning Greens and supporters,
Yahoo! Congratulations on your recent victory, ending the prohibition on Marijuana in Portland Maine!
I look forward to when the whole state follows suit and also claims the production and growing of Marijuana as a viable commerce for the state of Maine.
In addition to your two strategic plans to legalize the entire state, I feel there are immediate concerns to address regarding education and empowerment.
Here are my concerns, this ordinance will increase racial profiling significantly, impacting citizens of color living within Portland. The Portland Police Dept. has been and continues to be cited for its racial profiling and stereotyping of people of color, in particularly young people of color. Mark my word, we will see an increase of arrest and harassment pertaining to this ordinance specifically targeting these populations. I have two male sons – 17 (18 in Dec) & 25 who irregardless of their habits, friends, or behaviors (the youngest being opposed to drugs and drinking), are now at greater risk of being stereotyped and profiled, and harassed by Portland Police.
The next step ahead for the Greens is community education, thus empowerment!
Are there plans to hold public educational forms to inform citizens and voters about what is the law and the impact of this ordinance? These forums need to go into HS (I know Casco Bay would be open to this), to community centers, have info tables at holiday events, collaborate with youth organizations or organizations that serve these populations – like Preble Street teen center, day/night shelters and Florence House?
Passing such an ordinance brings about an ethical and moral obligation to responsibly educate its citizens about the impact, the law, and potential backlash from the police. The chief of police has clearly stated his position, what will be the implied behaviors of his officers?
Given our current history of race and class , even here in little ole Portland Maine, the emphasis of education is power, a tool to reach out to its most vulnerable populations- in this case our youth, youth of color ,communities of color and poor communities ( inclusive of Caucasians),English Learners and populations challenged with illiteracy.
Again are there plans in place to empower the people… all the people?