According to Reverend Al Sharpton, smoking weed is a political statement.
At 62 years old, the reverend is a civil rights activist, Baptist minister, talk show host, and former advisor to President Barack Obama. He’s aso been an outspoken advocate about the need for reform in marijuana policy and diversity in the cannabis industry. He’s even been a keynote speaker at events like the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo in both Los Angeles and New York.
In an interview with MERRY JANE, Sharpton discussed his experience during the Obama administration, observing people who had been harshly impacted on account of committing low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.
“When I was able to see first hand a lot of people whose lives were ruined, families shattered because of a joint, when President Obama left office and the first thing the Trump administration says is, ‘We’re going to start the War on Drugs again, we’re against the legalization of cannabis,’ I said no we need to not go and reverse that because I saw first hand what it does,” Sharpton explained.
First, marijuana law reform is about health issues, he said, emphasizing how ridiculous it is that legislators are still debating whether an elderly person, for instance, should be allowed to relieve their pain with cannabis. “Are we really that insensitive that we’re going to let medically proven remedies not be used because we have some archaic view?” Sharpton asked.
As for the argument that if weed were legal, kids would be smoking, the same thing could be said about alcohol or cigarettes, which are legal and regulated. To pick and choose isn’t right, suggested Sharpton. “I cannot believe that we are still in a mentality amongst some that we feel we can choose other people’s lives,” he said.
Meanwhile, not only is personal freedom and the right to medical treatment an issue with regard to legalization, but also diversity, as well. Only one percent of all dispensaries are owned by African Americans. The industry needs to ensure that blacks, Latinos, and women all have equal access to capital so that it can be inclusive of everyone, he said.
The only way to truly change any of this is to pester your legislators. With a midterm election coming up, ask them where they stand on legalization of medical marijuana, where they stand on other cannabis issues, Sharpton says. “Every time someone needs medical marijuana is a political statement, whether you like it or not. Don’t let anyone else make the decision for you.”