“The simple truth is that, for white people, the use of marijuana has effectively been legal for a long time. Isn’t it time we legalise it for everybody else?”
These are the powerful words of Cynthia Nixon, the actor who recently surprised many with the announcement that she would be running for the role of New York governor.
Nixon – best known for playing Miranda Hobbes, a badass yet relatable lawyer and mother – has already pledged to tackle the city’s subway crisis, as well as crippling income inequality, which sees the top one per cent earn 45 times more than the rest of the state combined.
Now, Nixon is tackling what she describes as the “racist war on drugs”. This year saw the recreational use of marijuana legalised in eight U.S. states and Washington, DC, marking a step in a new, liberal direction. Yet the drug is still illegal in New York, and Nixon highlights:
80 per cent of the New Yorkers who are arrested for marijuana are black or Latino, despite the fact that whites and people of colour use marijuana at roughly the same rates.
This imbalance represents the United States more generally; statistics show that black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for weed-related offences, whether it be possession, use or intent to sell. The number of arrests made is also unprecedented. Between 2001 and 2010, more than 8 million arrests were made. Crucially, these arrests also often result from random ‘stop-and-frisk’ searches; in New York, the intent behind these searches has also been described as racially-motivated.
Nixon highlights the effects these criminal charges can have:
The consequences follow people for the rest of their lives, making it harder to get jobs, or housing and for non-citizens putting them in the crosshairs for deportation.
She also points to an obvious fact: that legalisation will enable tax, which will subsequently bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars. But ultimately, she says, the state needs to stop punishing people of colour for “something white people do with impunity”.
It’s a strong message, and one which might shock those who only remember Miranda and some of her more questionable outfit choices; who would have thought that, in 2018, Cynthia Nixon would turn out to be one of the wokest women in New York?