Joshua and the panel at an Across America event in Detroit, MI.

Joshua and the panel at an Across America event in Detroit, MI.

Last year, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize recreational marijuana.

Its new law promises that along with fostering new economic opportunities, it will also address past injustices against people of color. It includes this mandate: “A plan to promote and encourage participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement… and to positively impact those communities.”

What will the law mean, in practice? And who’s likely to benefit most?

From Next City:

As legal marijuana markets emerge in state after state and Democratic lawmakers race to outdo each other with their pro-pot cred, establishing equity benchmarks in the industry becomes paramount. How will people of color gain a foothold in and benefit from the legal-weed economy? Some states that have legalized are working to seal or expunge prior marijuana convictions, a barrier that has kept many would-be entrepreneurs out of the marketplace.

But even as the legalization discourse shifts to include criminal justice reform, there are limits to what that looks like on the ground. Disturbing questions persist about prisoners such as [67-year-old Michael Thompson], who remain incarcerated with disproportionately long sentences for using or selling pot in the past. Permissive “420” culture hasn’t cut everyone the same slack, and perhaps unsurprisingly, extreme injustices in drug sentencing continue across the country.

Here’s a look at statewide efforts to foster social justice through marijuana legalization, courtesy of AP.

We air excerpts from our live panel event in Detroit, and discuss the intersection of marijuana legalization and social justice nationwide with The Hill’s Reid Wilson.

Show produced by Across America producer Amanda Williams.

1A Across America is funded through a grant from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 that is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting.

Have additional questions about what legalizing recreational marijuana might mean for your state? We’ll be conducting a Facebook Live Q&A with Reid Wilson right after the show.


  • Reid Wilson National correspondent, The Hill; @PoliticsReid
  • Anqunette Jamison Sarfoh Co-founder, BotaniQ medical marijuana provisioning center in Detroit, Michigan; @ChannelQ
  • Rev. Horace Sheffield Executive director, Detroit Association of Black Organizations; @RevSheffield
  • Barton Morris Principal attorney, the Cannabis Legal Group in Michigan

Map of state cannabis laws

Lokal_Profil/Wikimedia Commons

Map key: Blue – legal; Dark green – legal for medical use; Light green – legal for medical use, limited THC content; Gray – prohibited use; D – decriminalized, including laws which haven’t yet gone into effect. Credit: Lokal_Profil/Wikimedia Commons

Watch our team visit a dispensary in Detroit

Photos from our live event in Detroit

Topics + Tags

Most Recent Shows

The News Roundup – Domestic

Friday, Jan 17 2020The Senate impeachment trial will begin in earnest. Virginia ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment. The Houston Astros are caught cheating.