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University of Baltimore Law Review

Abstract

Historically, blacks have been prosecuted and convicted across the United States at significantly higher rates when compared to whites for marijuana-related crimes, despite the fact that studies indicate marijuana use by whites and blacks is relatively equal. Further, individuals with lower economic means were dually susceptible to conviction as a result of less vigorous legal representation.

Now, laws have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes in twenty-six states, along with a small portion of states (seven) legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Yet retroactive ameliorative relief is not widely available to those who were convicted under circumstances that are now legal, and as a result, stains remain on the records of a disproportionate number of blacks. Marijuana has become a big business, often being compared to the Gold Rush and referred to as the Green Rush. However, regulations across states that are a part of this Green Rush effectively wall out those once convicted (overwhelmingly blacks) for participating in, and profiting from, the very same industry.

This Comment will discuss the history of racial disparity in enforcement of marijuana laws across the United States; the effect of state-sanctioned legalization of marijuana use, possession, and sale in limited states; the stance of the United States in general as it applies to policy on retroactive relief when laws change; the different avenues states have taken thus far to address how changes in the law should affect those already convicted; evidence of the big business opportunities emerging in legal marijuana markets; and the barriers to entry that exist—particularly for blacks—who have been disparately negatively impacted by the war on drugs.

 

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