Waiting to Inhale
Cannabis Legalization and the Fight for Racial Justice
256 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: April 11, 2023
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.
“Waiting to Inhale dives into the racist history of cannabis from two different points of view. Owusu-Bempah and Rehmatullah shed light on the unjust past of what is now a multibillion-dollar industry that has yet to reflect the pain and suffering our community has experienced for far too long.”
Al Harrington, Viola CEO; sixteen-year NBA Veteran
“Owusu-Bempah and Rehmatullah have provided a unique and deeply personal insight into the intersection of drug policy and racial injustice. They mesh the expertise of academia and lived experience to narrate the rise and fall of cannabis prohibition in unflinching detail, not only unravelling the structural oppression implicit in the War on Drugs, but also illuminating a positive and compelling roadmap to a more just and equitable future.”
Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation