I think you are very likely to see marijuana legalization this year in New York. Governor Cuomo, who is certainly a smart politician, knows how to read his Legislature, and has obviously learned from their failed attempt previously to do this.
I think that New York, more than most places, has all of the complexities and the rules of great cities. You also have a state that is otherwise pretty much like the rest of the country. This case, really big city and the rest of the country. But well represented in the sense that there is a wide variety of things there.
What happened last time was a really good example of the saying, “If your enemies don’t get you, your own folks may.” People who said they were in favor of the legalization of marijuana then only wanted to do it their way.
I think this is a time when I have to deal with a somewhat delicate subject, that commonly marijuana prohibition was the result of racist policies that were aimed at African-Americans and certainly Mexican Americans. These laws then became the propaganda associated with legalizing marijuana, they became embedded in our culture and then became a part of the drug war.
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And part of this, I have to do a little amateur sociology here, but the African-American churches are and have been for historical reasons, the political centers of the African-American community and the African-American clergy, most notably the late, great Martin Luther King Jr. He became identified with civil rights, looking to the federal government to stop the persecution of the African-American community in states where they still have regressive racism. The African-American churches became centers of politics. Fast forward to the drug war, which really got under way post Martin Luther King’s assassination or early in the 70s and so on.
African-American churches and churches generally depend on older women, older women who ended up raising their grandchildren because the generation of their children ended up being the main focus of the drug war. And if you talked about, you know, ending the drug war, they interpret that as meaning that crack dealers on the streets would be legal. Of course, that would also mean they saw legalizing marijuana as a part of that. They were subject to the same reefer madness propaganda song.
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And let me make very clear, that I am not opposed to the African-American clergy. I am anticlerical. I am opposed to the Christian fundamentalist clergy. I am opposed to anybody who thinks on behalf of Rome that they can tell us what to do if they say they are speaking on behalf of the Jerusalem or Mecca. And they think that they can tell us what to do. I am anticlerical.
But the fact is that the African-American clergy are still a major part of the constituency for arresting young black men like, say, Barack Obama.
My idea of religious freedom is that everyone should be free to find God in their own way. But the people who claim to speak on behalf of God ought to get the hell out of the way.