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Est. April 5, 2002
June 14, 2018 - Issue 746

Teachers, Democrats,
Legalizing Marijuana,
and the
2018 Midterms

"The current push is for legalization which will
make a large number of white businessmen rich. 
Proposals to permit marijuana sales for recreational
purposes are now sweeping the nation, and they have
led to legalization in nine states (WA, OR, NV, CA,
CO, HI, VT, MA, ME, and Washington, D.C.) for those
over the age of 21.  But the promises of targeted
social uplift for low-income, substantially unemployed
communities of color are vastly overstated."

Trump Updates to the Midterms:

  • Trump picked low-hanging minority fruit in issuing pardons and commutations to Jack Johnson and Alice Marie Johnson and proposing to pardon the late black activist, Marcus Garvey, in an attempt to endear himself to low-income African Americans in order to tamp down black anger toward his racism and political policies.

  • Democrats continue to be woefully ineffective in prosecuting a political case against Trump for his repeated untruthfulness, rampant misogyny and sexual assaults of women, and his toleration of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Scott Pruitt’s widespread abuse and corruption of his office.

  • Trump has made flunkies out of Republican leadership and rank-and-file Republicans at every level of government with his laser focus on attending to the xenophobic prejudices and economic insecurities of his low-income, right-wing base. They support him unconditionally, and he uses them to threaten any Republican who dares to oppose his agenda. (Incumbent Republican House candidates in Alabama and South Carolina who opposed Trump went down to defeat in their primaries this past Tuesday.)

  • Earlier this week, Trump scored a political triumph with his so-called historic summit with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, who has killed and starved millions of his own people along with several American citizens, and threatened a nuclear attack on America. In a two-page statement comprised of vague and general statements of commitments to: establish new U.S.-Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) relations for peace and prosperity, build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and to recover U.S. Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) remains, and the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

  • Even this non-descript, supposed political breakthrough will likely be embraced by Trump’s base and the some Democrats (Sen. Bernie Sanders has commented on it favorably) because he is presenting this charade as keeping a campaign promise and as a strategy that prevented nuclear war with DPRK, giving a boost to Republicans as they head into the 2018 midterms.

Public school teachers are caught in another ‘trick bag’ as they try to gain their footing in saving public education and stabilizing their profession. Their latest challenge is to decide whether they can continue to support Democratic candidates who are not only remaining silent and largely inactive on preventing the expansion of voucher and charter schools and other forms of public school privatization but who are also promoting the legalization, rather than the decriminalization, or use of medical marijuana as the economic salvation of poverty-ridden urban inner-city communities.

Decriminalization would address the racially disproportionate charging and excessive sentencing of minority males and females who make up the majority of those incarcerated in jails and prisons for drug crimes. These individuals represent the primary human capital in the pipeline that has created the prison-industrial complex chronicled by Michelle Alexander in her 2010 bestselling book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” She documented the harsh mandatory punishments for marijuana sales that both liberal and conservative judges criticized from the bench as they handed them down.

But the current push is for legalization which will make a large number of white businessmen rich. Proposals to permit marijuana sales for recreational purposes are now sweeping the nation, and they have led to legalization in nine states (WA, OR, NV, CA, CO, HI, VT, MA, ME, and Washington, D.C.) for those over the age of 21. But the promises of targeted social uplift for low-income, substantially unemployed communities of color are vastly overstated. The reality is that these residents will receive a relative small percentage, if any, of the benefits of legal pot: jobs, monies for social programs, and almost no minority ownership of the dispensaries that sell it.

The downside for teachers is that the Democrats they are voting for are rabid supporters of this new drug paradigm as the use rate for middle and high school students has escalated in those states that have legalized this so-called harmless drug. More students are sleeping in class, becoming involved in more school fights, and out-of-school car accidents. For many, it is serving as a gateway to more serious drug use. Thus, teachers find themselves supporting politicians who are making their jobs more difficult while flat lining their salaries and benefits and increasing the costs of their benefits and underfunding public education in general.

From Washington State to New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, high profile majority and minority Democratic officials are promoting marijuana legalization as the panacea to urban ills. In New Jersey, the recently elected Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy made marijuana legalization the centerpiece of his first 100 days legislative initiative. He received an overwhelming share of the teacher and minority vote in his near landslide victory over his Republican opponent. However, Murphy is running into increasing opposition from New Jersey’s black community as it has begun to realize the negative impact of the recreational marijuana law if passed.

He has recently combined medical marijuana with recreational marijuana in the latest rendition of the proposed law in an effort to blunt opposition since the former is popular with a majority of voters. So far, Democrats and Republicans are backing Murphy on this issue because ultimately about the money, but minority and low-income communities will see little of it.

African American ministers who soldiered hard for Murphy during the primary and general elections are now quietly pulling their support as their congregations have begun to question the propriety of legalized marijuana as their communities are saturated with victims of the marijuana scourge: babies with birth defects, increased insurance costs, young males who cannot find jobs due to their inability to pass drug tests, and those with criminal records associated with marijuana that will not be expunged by the new law. The prison industrial complex will remain as robust as it is.

In one case, a leading minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church was called by his District Bishop and told to refrain from any public show of support for this legislation.

More importantly, marijuana legalization will not result in the release of the thousands of minorities imprisoned for non-violent marijuana offenses as many minority leaders were led to believe. Second, the owners of the corporate marijuana dispensaries, nearly all of whom will be white and who were major financial contributors to Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign, have already lined up and have been essentially guaranteed a license to open a legal cannabis business after the legislation passes. They are also demanding that their prospective companies be held harmless against lawsuits for selling defective hemp.

In addition, a Newark Public Schools eight grader fell ill after consuming tainted edible cannabis during the past month that the African American Mayor of Newark, who supports Murphy’s marijuana agenda, attempted to obscure.

The legalization of marijuana is yet another issue that teachers need to consider as they approach the 2018 midterms. Republicans, by and large, have stayed away from championing this program due to their conservative values and religious concerns. Trump opposes federal legalization as did Obama. Democrats are pushing these programs as payback to their campaign contributors and making teaching an even more difficult job.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




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