Cannabis, history, social work, criminalization


Cannabis users have been historically stigmatized and criminalized for non-violent behaviors such as consuming, producing, and distributing cannabis. Racialized cannabis users in particular have been constructed as fundamentally different, dangerous, and mentally unstable, while state actors have benefited from the subjugation of this group. The following article reviews the history of cannabis prohibition with an emphasis on the social construction of racialized cannabis users and role of social workers in the treatment of this group. As laws liberalizing cannabis use and trade are passed across North America, an emergent legal framework is maintaining racial divides and marginalizing non- White cannabis users. Recommendations for social work professionals to advocate for change and take a stand on ongoing social justice issues are provided.

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