Irish Need Not Apply (for Pot Licenses)

March 13, 2020

by Rob Roper

Racism is like a poison ivy rash. It feels great to scratch it, but that’s what makes it spread. And our government has been doing an awful lot of scratching lately.

The hope and promise of the Civil Rights movement was to evolve to a point where we, in the words of Martin Luther King, judge each other by the content of our character, not by the color of our skin. Unfortunately, as our society moved closer and closer to that goal, our government has reversed course and increasingly insists that not nothing, but everything, be viewed primarily through the spectrum of skin color and broader identity politics.

Here’s a case in point: The commercial marijuana bill recently passed by the Vermont House contains a provision giving preference to women and minorities in choosing who is allowed to get a license to sell legal pot. “The Board shall issue licenses pursuant to this chapter as determined according to a system of priorities adopted by rule by the Board. The system of priorities shall require consideration of criteria, including:… whether the applicants would foster social justice and equity in the cannabis industry by being a minority or women-owned business….” So much for everyone being treated equally under the law – the bedrock principle of our national sense of justice.

Whether you’re for or against legalizing and the recreational use and sale of pot, injecting the issue of race and sex into this (scratching) will only intensify feelings of resentment of injustice (spread).

Similarly, the reforms to Vermont’s Act 250 land use law contains an entire section dedicated to “Impacts on racial equity and diversity.” It’s a land use bill!

Our culture will never evolve to be disinterested in race – color blind — if our system of laws is not. That was true when the laws were rigged against minorities such as in the Jim Crow South, and it is just as true today when the laws are being rigged to benefit minorities. If we truly want to be a colorblind society, it starts with colorblind laws.

How many stories have we recently seen about racism as a growing rather than a diminishing problem in Vermont? A lot. Stuff like this is why.  Our politicians are constantly scratching the poison ivy rash, and, as such, they are the ones who are making it spread.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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