• Matthew Bratcher - Executive Director

Marijuana Legalization and the Fight for Racial Justice

Recent events have made it clear that we are at a national crossroads. We also reach this crossroads locally as Louisville has been catapulted to the national spotlight alongside Minneapolis in the recent protests calling for justice for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Kentucky NORML stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and against systemic racism, discrimination, and intolerance. Cannabis prohibition is just one of a number of issues that have perpetuated injustice disproportionately upon black communities across generations.


To borrow from Eric Altieri, Executive Director for National NORML, “Will legalizing marijuana reform alone solve the problem of racial injustice? No. Is ending cannabis prohibition going to fix all of America’s social ills? No. After we legalize adult-cannabis use, will we see an end to discriminatory policing against communities of color and other marginalized groups? No. Will the end of marijuana prohibition be a small step toward the greater goal of promoting justice? Without a doubt, yes.”


We owe it to our country, our state, and ourselves to stand in solidarity with those disproportionately affected by prohibition as well as all acts of cruelty, intolerance, and discrimination.


Kentucky NORML was proud to stand with Representative Charles Booker last year in support of his Cannabis Decriminalization Bill he introduced in the legislature last year, and agree that any cannabis reform must include automatic expungement of criminal records related to cannabis possession and restoration of voting rights of non-violent offenders. It is most important to bear in mind that the no-knock raid policy that led to Breonna Taylor’s murder is often a policy excused in the name of prohibition. While Louisville has suspended the use of no-knock warrants, many communities are still being affected by this policy.


Again, cannabis prohibition is but one issue to tackle as we come together in the wake of recent events but it plays an important role in standing in solidarity with black lives. Our hearts go out to the families of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, George Floyd, as well as the numerous victims of police violence across this country, and it is our hope that the coming discussion will bring about reforms that will honor their memory so that their loss will not be in vain.


This is a historic moment, we call on all Kentuckians to listen to those communities facing this oppression and to do whatever we can to support them in this struggle, not just for a better and more just Kentucky, but for a greater America as well. There is no doubt that our national discussion over matters of race and policing will continue long after these public protests have ceased. NORML and it’s affiliates believe that calls for cannabis legalization need to be an important part of this emerging discussion — but only a part. Black and brown lives matter and we owe it to our country and to ourselves to take tangible steps toward dismantling many of the power structures that perpetuate injustice. We believe that through inclusion and diversity coupled with conversation and understanding, change can and will happen.


In Solidarity,

Matthew Bratcher

Kentucky NORML

Executive Director

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