Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah was recently interviewed in an episode of CBC Radio One's The Current. He discussed the upcoming decriminalization of cannabis in Canada, and its impact on those in marginalized communities who have been disproportionately criminalized for marijuana related offenses. Professor Owusu-Bempah pointed to the system that operates in Oakland, California and suggested that 'equity permits' for those previously criminalized could help to mitigate the past injustices. While this would ensure more equality in the accessing of marijuana sales for these communities, socioeconomic factors, stigma, and existing convictions will still present barriers for these groups.
Professor Owusu-Bempah is an assistant professor of sociology whose research focuses on policing, youth marginalization and exclusion, and race, ethnicity and crime; specifically how people of the African Diaspora perceive and experience law enforcement and punishment.
The episode and its transcript are available here. We have posted an excerpt below.
As Canada prepares to de-criminalize cannabis, there are growing calls for an amnesty on pot convictions to right past wrongs, and allow access to a burgeoning industry.
Currently, proposed regulations enable Health Canada to refuse clearance to individuals associated to organized crime; who have past convictions; or anyone with an association to drug trafficking, corruption or violent offences.
Advocates argue enforcement of drug laws have not been equal to all social groups, and it's necessary to acknowledge a privilege that people in racialized communities don't have.
"Many Canadians, they can use their privilege to shield themselves from criminalization," said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto working on race, crime and criminal justice.
"And then you've got other groups of people, many that I work with, who have been the target of the war on drugs, who have been criminalized, in communities that have been criminalized, and they're now going to be excluded."
Listen to the episode here.