OSU’s Braxton-Franklin: Changing Discussion on Cannabis
Despite a cultural and legal shift in the past ten years, cannabis use still carries a stigma, unlike its unofficial counterpart — alcohol. This stigma is perpetuated by carefully crafted wording, cultural campaigns, and the War on Drugs — and one OSU faculty member aims to change that.
While the things she does are many, Braxton-Franklin’s work is starting with student outreach and an effort to change the way that we talk about cannabis. Just as with many other drugs, discussion around cannabis has been racialized through the term ‘marijuana.’
“The term marijuana causes harm and further oppresses already vulnerable community members,” said Braxton-Franklin.
And it’s true – according to NPR’s Code Switch, cannabis being coined ‘marijuana’ was a purposeful move of the federal government. By associating the drug with Mexico and its inhabitants, it took a racially divided country and used that division to further widen the gap.
In fact, according to the ACLU, “despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.”
The first step to counteract this move, according to Braxton-Franklin, is to change the language we use when talking about cannabis. Changing the name of the drug back to its actual name, cannabis, will help in several ways.
Firstly, it will remove the racially charged word from daily conversation — which will hopefully alter the way people think of the drug. Additionally, it will help destigmatize cannabis if the federal government goes through with the plan laid out in H.R. 365, also known as the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act, which is currently awaiting approval before Congress.
The bill in question would move cannabis from its current status as a schedule one drug on par with heroin and LSD down to a schedule three drug — similar to Tylenol with codeine or testosterone. This would simultaneously decrease the severity of cannabis arrests’ punishments and help put it more on par with the actual seriousness of the drug’s effects.
Braxton-Franklin would like to advocate for programs that would allow expungement of current cannabis possession convictions, as well as social equity programs. In other words, she aims to counteract the work that the federal government has done for years to unequally punish minority communities.