One aspect of making additional marijuana laws that is often overlooked in rural, or less urban areas is the racial impact they have on society. The enforcement of marijuana laws generates some of the justice system’s starkest racial disparities. “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” a landmark report from the ACLU, details the staggering racial bias and financial waste of our country’s counterproductive fight against a drug widely considered less harmful than alcohol. The excuse that marijuana is a gateway drug is a widely debunked theory. *In the United States, between 2001 and 2010, a black person was almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person was, despite approximately equal rates of use. That needs to be repeated... despite approximately equal rates of use. In some states and counties, blacks are 8, 10, or even 15 times more likely to be arrested, mainly because of the concentration of law enforcement in lower income or poor areas. Lower income people, regardless of ethnicity, are more likely to be financially devastated by the disparate enforcement of such laws. They are less likely to afford bail. That, in turn means that someone living from paycheck to paycheck who cannot afford to pay a small bail faces losing employment, housing, even their families as they wait the average 3 months of incarceration before even having a court hearing. The main purpose of bail is to ensure appearance in court and protect society. Not many people would argue that the average marijuana users are dangerous. However, holding someone on bail has another unlawful purpose; revenue. One of the reasons that some in law enforcement favor the laws are just for that reason; to continue the revenue flow from incarceration. Many jurisdictions depend on that revenue as a large portion of their budget. That is wrong. That is not how our justice system should work. *Marijuana Law Reform ACLU
Submitted by Gerald Hampton, a Wicomico County Resident
I love walking down the boardwalk in Ocean City and admiring the hive of activity during the busy beach season. Seeing folks from all walks of life enjoying our Eastern Shore of life brings joy to my heart.
One way to continue supporting Ocean City tourism is to bring new jobs to the Lower Shore. Offshore wind developers are required to open two new operations and maintenance facilities in the Ocean City area, which means more jobs, more worker income, more local tax revenue, and more commerce for Ocean City businesses.
But as Mayor Meehan wails against the offshore wind developers over the height of their proposed turbines, he is doing a disservice to the residents of Ocean City. As Las Vegas, the tourism capital of the world can attest, a recession can be a downright disaster for an area that relies so heavily on tourism. Las Vegas saw almost three million less visitors between 2007 – 2009 during the Great Recession. Residents lost homes, businesses were shattered, and families were decimated. Offshore wind will provide lower shore residents more job stability when the state and national economy inevitably cool off.
Ocean City has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars hiring hotshot attorneys and lobbyists to derail an industry that economists say will support an estimated 25,000 jobs in Maryland with more than $1.5 billion in worker and business income over the next twenty years.
Imagine if that money had been spent making safety improvements for bikes and pedestrians on Coastal Highway or combating the H20i car festival that frustrates residents and visitors each year.
Concerns about offshore wind and tourism are not supported by facts. Block Island in Rhode Island presents a lesson for Ocean City. The tourism-dependent island is home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm, and like Ocean City, some were concerned about the effect on tourism. Not only was tourism not impacted, it actually increased. The University of Rhode Island examined AirBnB data and found that occupancy rates increased 19 percent and added an extra $349 in revenue for owners. Block Island is proving that tourism and offshore wind can co-exist. Perhaps the mayor can use some of the money he is spending on lobbyists to visit block island and see the positive impacts for himself.
Economic opportunities like this come around once in a lifetime. We have an opportunity to help build a new American industry that will benefit Ocean City and the entire region. Our elected officials should stop, examine the situation and ask themselves if they want to go on the record as being against job creation for their own constituents. I certainly hope they think twice for the sake of our economy.