Popular Talk Show Host Embraces Legalization of Drugs as an Option; Says It Would Ease Violence, Killing of Black Youth
Popular Talk Show Host Embraces Legalization of Drugs as an Option
Says It Would Ease Violence, Killing of Black Youth
Friday, May 18th at Sojourner-Douglass College in Baltimore, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) convened a Town Hall Meeting on the “War on Drugs” and its devastating impact on Black communities. Nationally syndicated talk show host Warren Ballentine, Keynote Presenter for the event, told an attentive audience that “it’s time to consider legalization to take the profit out of the drug traffic and stop the violence and killing in our communities.” Ballentine’s comments came after listening to a Panel of local and national drug policy analysts and policy reform advocates detail the damaging effects of the War on Drugs and racially biased criminal justice policies on Black neighborhoods. The Panel was moderated by Attorney Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations.
Catalina Byrd of the Hip Hop Caucus, and Neill Franklin, Executive Director, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) made a power point presentation documenting the disparities in arrests, sentencing and convictions between Blacks and Whites in Baltimore City and the State of Maryland. They emphasized that most of the arrests and convictions are for non-violent drug offenses. Despite the fact that drug use in Black and White communities is about the same, Black people are disproportionately arrested and sent to jail/prison. Catalina urged the audience to increase voter participation in order to change policies which are adversely affecting Black communities. Deborah Small, Executive Director of Break the Chains, People of Color and the War on Drugs followed with a power point presentation that illustrated the long history of discriminatory criminal justice policies directed at Black people. She suggested that “Black people have always been criminalized as a way of controlling and preventing us from achieving full freedom in this country.”
Maryland Delegate Jill Carter said that most people in the audience were already aware of the negative effects of the criminal justice system on Black people. “We’re preaching to the choir,” she said. “Nothing will change as long as we stay at home, don’t vote and allow politicians, including the leadership of the Democratic Party, to get away with adopting or tolerating these policies. You’ve got to work with those of us who are trying to fight the good fight and hold leaders accountable.” Noted activist and Radio Talk Show Host Dr. Tyrone Powers voiced support for legalization of drugs but cautioned that “We just can’t legalize drugs without having the alternatives in place first. If we legalize drugs without having the right system in place, Black kids will be sitting in the classroom like zombies spaced out on drugs.” Neill Franklin, who often debates Powers on his radio show, countered by stating: “There are already a number of programs available. They may be inadequate, but we can’t allow prohibition to continue until we have all the alternatives enacted. We’re losing lives to the War on Drugs every day.” John Morris, Dean of the School of Urban Planning and Community Development, Sojourner-Douglass College, touted building economically sustainable communities where people are genuinely connected as an alternative to the War on Drugs and the illicit drug trafficking in Black neighborhoods. “We have to focus on reconnecting with each other as a people, building relationships and using our collective resources to create safe and economically viable communities.” During his remarks, Warren Ballentine clearly agreed with this approach: “ We have got to use our economic power to check those forces that are oppressing us and invest in our own businesses as a way of building strong communities.”
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