A trend that has taken place across the country is the act of gentrification.
While this has been happening for more years than we could count, it has just recently started to get called out for what it is.
Gentrification, in the simplest terms, is the idea of taking over low-class neighborhoods, buildings and locations and redecorating them to meet the taste of wealthier individuals.
This term brings about such a negative connotation due to that fact while in the process of redecorating and allowing wealthier individuals to flood the community, the original members of the community are forced to deal with the backlash.
Much of this backlash pertains to the fact that these communities will no longer be accessible to the individuals of lower class families. With richer residents flooding in, property values increase, which prices out lower-income families and small businesses, according to a Medium article by Ilana Gordon. Lower-class families eventually move out of these communities, leaving behind their lives due to the fact that richer residents want to take part in culturally rich communities they are not a part of.
But a new theme we have seen in terms of gentrification actually has nothing to do with things such as housing or real estate, but more to do with semi-legal/illegal substances.
Marijuana has been used for recreational purposes for many years by all different types of people, yet recently a certain type of people have been being applauded for the hip, new, cool use of it.
Marijuana has started the journey of gentrification by the way of white Americans. They have paved a way for new types of recreational uses with little to no repercussions. Examples of these types of recreational uses include marijuana-infused yoga, college degrees forming around marijuana and even expecting mothers using marijuana.
People allow weed during yoga because they believe it provides a “sensual experience that takes [participants] out of [their] everyday reality,” according to Marijuasana. It’s now even offered as an undergraduate program at Northern Michigan University as “medicinal plant chemistry.”
It is instances like these that give a negative connotation around gentrification. While these individuals are being coined as innovators, other individuals, most commonly black individuals, are being punished for even having marijuana on them.
Studies have shown that black people and white people use marijuana at the same rates, yet black individuals are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession, according to New York Times article “The Injustice of Marijuana Arrests.”
The so called “war on drugs” has been aimed significantly at black Americans, while white Americans have been able to smoke comfortably behind closed doors. Comfortability and privilege has afforded them the opportunity to make money off of substances such as marijuana while others are being subjected to things such as fines and jail or prison time.
We should stop funding programs that are only pushing the program of inequality and instead work toward advocating for the release of the hundreds of black Americans that have been mass incarcerated.