Hollywood star, cannabis kingpin, and stoner comedy overlord Seth Rogen recently got serious about the anti-black nature of pot prohibition in the United States and called for the expungement of criminal records.
Rogen sat on a virtual panel last week hosted by the Marijuana Policy Project titled “Reimagining Justice: Race, Cannabis, and Policing,” which is where he discussed the racial injustices of Drug War policing. Houseplant, the cannabis company run by Rogen and his partner Seth Goldberg, sponsored the online discussion panel.
“The war on drugs was racist, is racist.” Rogen said. “The only reason cannabis is illegal is for racist reasons, and we have to acknowledge that and be aware of that.”
After decades of drug policies that target people of color, Rogen and other panelists noted that cannabis legalization is hugely benefitting white businesses, while many Black people remain in prison on pot charges and those with criminal records are barred from the industry.
According to a report by the ACLU, race-based enforcement of cannabis is still the way weed is policed in the US. The report states that Blacks are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for pot than whites. While disproportionate figures remain consistent in every US state, cops in Montana and Kentucky are 9.4 and 9.5 times more likely to bust Black people for weed than white folks. In some individual counties, the disparity can range from 20 to 50 times higher. Such inequity cannot stand and whites, Rogen said, must take action against it.
“If you are white people in the cannabis space,” Rogen said, “you should acknowledge the realities of the space you are in and the conditions on which this industry was built and the history of cannabis in America.”
While affirming that Houseplant is committed to racial justice, Rogen pointed out his own privilege. “My life has been far less negatively affected from outward cannabis use than many people that I’m friends with who are not white,” he said. “A lot of people just don’t want to acknowledge it or think about it. And to us, we cannot operate one day without acknowledging it, because we are benefiting from it.”
In addition, Rogen and Goldberg remain active with National Expungement Week, working to eradicate the records of those who did time for weed crimes.
“Expungement is incredibly important to us,” Rogen said, “because it is a step in correcting some of the wrongs and giving back some of the rights that these people, who have been negatively affected by the War on Drugs, had taken away from them for no reason.”