The Root

The Root’s High Society series, which focuses on the implications of the legalization of marijuana for black America, expanded the conversation on Oct. 6 with a powerful and necessary Facebook Live chat between Carl Hart, Ph.D., and asha bandele.

Hart is one of the world's leading neuroscientists and chair of the psychology department at Columbia University. He is also the author of High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society.

A veteran prison- and drug-reform activist, asha bandele is a senior director at the Drug Policy Alliance. She is the author of The Prisoner's Wife and Daughter, which was rereleased in August with a healing guide for black people living and loving through the hypersocialized and pernicious trauma of police brutality.

The Facebook Live conversation, the first in The Root’s partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance, focused on the racist narrative around drugs and drug addiction; the critical need for drug education; the criminalization of black and brown people; and California's Prop 64, which "will allow adults 21 and older to possess, transport and use up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes."


“The most important conversation that I have with [my sons], in terms of drugs, is they are more likely to be arrested for drugs than their white friends,” Hart said during the hourlong chat. “The most potential negative impact or consequence is the police, not the drugs themselves.”

Also on The Root: “Gold Rush: Jay Z Takes an Unflinching Look at Racist, Violent War on Drugs in New Short Film”


The legalization of marijuana has created yet another pathway to prosperity for white Americans, while the simultaneous incarceration of black and brown people on nonviolent drug-related charges continues. Under the banner of progress, the white supremacist capitalist structure that shapes the foundation of this country is once again economically repressing black and Latinx people.

Another day, another dollar, another arrest or black body in the street—more victims of state-sanctioned violence and occupation. As James Baldwin wrote in 1966, "[T]he police are simply the hired enemies of this population. They are present to keep the Negro in his place and to protect white business interests, and they have no other function."


The more things change …

Also on The Root: “Dream Hampton: We Should Have the Right to Sell Weed”

It is critical that we connect the dots between the drug war, the criminalization of black and Latinx people, and the mandate that police have to target the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in our society.


Our Facebook Live chat tackled that head-on.


Watch the entire conversation between bandele and Hart below:

Make sure, too, that you join The Root and the Drug Policy Alliance on Facebook Live on Oct. 24 at 12 p.m. EDT for a vital conversation on marijuana legalization, drug sellers, race and economic equity.


The panel, which will be moderated by bandele, will include Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter organization; Piper Kerman, justice-reform advocate and author-creator of Orange Is the New Black; Divine Pryor, executive director of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions; and Deborah Small, an internationally renowned expert on drug policy and a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

You don't want to miss it.