The War on Drugs from 1970-2015 had a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino communities in California, meaning that while other demographics participated equally in the traffic in and consumption of cannabis, certain demographics were targeted by law enforcement much more aggressively by comparison.
During the War on Drugs, marijuana was criminalized with a “zero tolerance” policy applied to people in urban regions that were already struggling with the crack epidemic, gang violence, poverty, and a lack of resources. That zero-tolerance drug enforcement impact was devastating to individuals, families, and communities.
The result was that Black and Latino men in urban areas in California were very likely to encounter law enforcement for nonviolent crimes during the supposed “War on Drugs,” and entire generations of Black and Latino men and women experienced arrests and jail time that impacted their ability to thrive in life.
The War on Drugs also brought about the gangs that terrorized communities in the 80s and 90s, and in which many young people got caught up, involving themselves in serious criminal activity.
In the era of legal, recreational cannabis, some efforts have been made to create Social Equity Programs to encourage businesses by people who come from communities that were disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs.
There are still fewer Black and Latino owners of cannabis companies in California compared to other racial groups, despite the fact that Black and Latino communities were more associated by law enforcement with cannabis.