The roots of a racial reckoning through the lens of cannabis.
From the start, the War on Drugs targeted Black, Brown, and Indigenous Americans already disadvantaged by a system stacked against them. Even now, as white Americans who largely escaped the fire capitalize on the legalization movement and a booming cannabis industry, their less fortunate peers continue to suffer the consequences of the systemic racism in policing and failed drug policy that fueled the original crisis. In Waiting to Inhale, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Tahira Rehmatullah issue a powerful call for a racial reckoning and provide a roadmap to redress this deep and abiding injustice.
Waiting to Inhale illuminates the stories of those on the front lines of the War on Drugs—the individuals and communities disproportionately harmed, sometimes seemingly beyond repair; the official and social forces ranged against them; and the victims, legal and political activists, and cannabis entrepreneurs who are fighting back. As attitudes toward cannabis are shifting, now is the opportune time, Owusu-Bempah and Rehmatullah submit, to expunge cannabis convictions and make a place in the burgeoning legal cannabis market for Black and other underrepresented groups who have borne the brunt of harsh cannabis laws.
A powerful indictment of one of the worst social and political failures in the nation’s history, Waiting to Inhale offers an equally powerful vision of the possibility of redemption. Communities can be rebuilt, and racist policies must be overturned in order to give way to a new era of justice.
About the authors
Akwasi Owusu-Bempah is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto, an Affiliate Scientist at Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the Director of Research for the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty.
A partner at Highlands Venture Partners, Cofounder and CEO of Commons, and member of the board of directors for Akerna Corp. and the Last Prisoner Project, Tahira Rehmatullah is often referred to in the trade press as “the most powerful woman in cannabis.”
“A compelling examination of the intersection of racial justice and cannabis policy. The authors confront the undeniable racial disparities in cannabis policy and enforcement, offering a powerful critique of the War on Drugs and the social, economic and racial implications of the budding cannabis industry…A must-read…Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Tahira Rehmatullah make a strong case for ending the War on Drugs and pursuing a path towards social equity via cannabis legalization. Through unflinching honesty and searing insight, Waiting to Inhale serves as both a powerful indictment of past injustices and a hopeful vision for a more equitable future. This essential read for anyone interested in understanding the roots of this national crisis and the potential for transformative change brings to light critical aspects of the conversation surrounding racial justice and cannabis policy.”
“Offers a powerful vision for redemptive policy measures that might offer new ways of securing racial and social justice redress.”
—Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
“Illuminating the stories of those on the frontlines of the war on drugs, this shows how Black and other under-represented groups have born the brunt of harsh cannabis laws and sets out how communities can be rebuilt, along with a new era of justice.”
“An impressively well researched, documented, written, organized, and ground-breaking study that is a welcome and seminal contribution to our on-going national discussion on the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes…Unreservedly recommended.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Waiting to Inhale presents a serious topic in a surprisingly entertaining format. The two authors ping-pong anecdotes with each other, frequently handing the paddle to the drug war’s victims and opponents…Waiting to Inhale’s call for social justice extends beyond ending the ill-conceived War on Drugs, whose major accomplishment was to fill prisons and break communities, to repair the damage done.”
—Milwaukee Shepherd Express