Despite comparable usage rates, blacks are almost four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana. Unequal enforcement of drug laws combined with over-reliance on policing and incarceration as a cure-all for crime, poverty, mental illness, and addiction have resulted in America’s mass incarceration crisis that disproportionately impacts black and brown people. Mississippi is one the nation’s leading incarcerators with the third highest rate in the nation. The need to change these ineffective and destructive policies is clear. Many states have moved in the right direction by legalizing marijuana either for medical or recreational use and decriminalizing some marijuana possessions. While Mississippi remains entrenched in its tough-on-crime mentality, there is reason for hope. Hattiesburg passed on ordinance decriminalizing first-time possession of marijuana, following a similar ordinance enacted in Jackson. Mississippi voters will decide whether to permit medical marijuana via ballot initiative in 2020.
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