The war on drugs entrenches systemic racism. In the UK, Black people are more likely to be stopped and searched, arrested and imprisoned for drug offences - despite levels of drug use being lower than in white communities.
In the United States changes to the legal status of cannabis have often been seen as an opportunity to address historical injustices. However, too often Black people have been excluded from the process and have not benefited from reform. The same communities that bore the brunt of criminalisation risk being left behind as new, legal markets emerge.
But there are lessons to be learnt. In some states, racial justice and the inclusion of Black perspectives have been embedded in the process of change. We have growing examples of places where, by putting Black voices at the heart of the debate, reform can truly support drug laws that tackle systemic racism and disproportionate policing.
"The world is waking up to the futility of the war on drugs. I’m pleased that Trust for London is supporting the Transform Drugs Policy Foundation to work with Blaksox – a network of Black community organisations – to be involved in the policy debate around legalisation. Black communities need a seat at the table as this debate grows." - Manny Hothi, CEO of Trust for London.
We have formed a new allyship between the Social Action Network BLAKSOX and Transform Drug Policy Foundation that will amplify the voices of Black communities as drug reform comes to Europe and the UK.
This allyship seeks to ensure that as we move towards drug law reform here, Black people and communities take centre stage. It creates places and spaces for Black voices to be amplified and for those experiences to more fully inform the debate. Transform and Blaksox are committed to ensuring drug policy debates focus on the needs of those most impacted, and that future policy is designed to empower rather than further marginalise these communities.
The project is currently seed funded by Trust for London in February 2021 (for a two-year period/ match funding is still required) and will build on previous work with Black communities across both the capital and globally to ensure ‘place-based’ voices take centre stage in the debate on drug policy and reform.