OPINION: Marijuana Legalization & Economic Restorative Justice for Black Communities Devastated by Systemic Racism by Maria Granville

Editorial/Op-Ed

(HARLEM) – Believe it or not, New York’s thriving lottery system, which raised nearly $10.2 billion in revenue for the state last year, was invented by a Black man, Casper Holstein.

Known as “The Bolito King,” Holstein, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, is considered the father of the so-called “numbers.” In the early 1920s, he devised a way to randomly select winning numbers using US Customs House receipts and the Stock Exchange’s daily volume – without the prospect of rigged results.

The numbers game went on to employ over 100,000 people across the five boroughs, finance local businesses, and create generational wealth.

In 1980, New York State decided to legalize the $800 million to $1.5 billion dollar business. Dead set on cutting the current operators out of the business, officials rejected solutions that would have legitimized their businesses and saved their jobs. Instead, they opted to deride them as tax evaders and criminals while eliminating their livelihoods.

New York State is again eyeing a thriving illegal market, built predominantly by Black people who have borne the brunt of unequal enforcement while making a living for themselves, their families, and their communities. The racial disparities of arrests for marijuana offenses in New York City are staggering – in the second Quarter of 2020, 56 percent of people arrested for marijuana infractions are Black. Six percent are white.

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