|Elders depicted at the 2016 Oakland Museum "Altered State" exhibit|
Former US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders has co-authored an oped on CNN.com blasting the AMA's policy on marijuana as racist and out of step with the times. It states:
The AMA actively supports cannabis prohibition, a cornerstone of the drug war, even as it hypocritically condemns systemic racism for creating inequity and limiting access to health care among communities of color. The organization fails to appreciate or chooses to ignore the fact that the uneven application of laws on cannabis prohibition contributes to poverty, which is one of the largest obstacles to health care access in communities of color.
Cannabis is demonstrably safer for the vast majority of adults than alcohol, but the AMA doesn't call for a return to alcohol prohibition. Cannabis is far less harmful to adults than tobacco, but the AMA advocates tighter regulation rather than the prohibition of tobacco products. While the medical community offers an evidence-based, nuanced assessment of the health effects of cannabis, the AMA hyperbolically asserts that "without question, the public health risks (of legalization) are immense."
Cannabis use is not the "immense" public health threat that the AMA claims, but its prohibition is a powerful weapon of racially biased policing. In 2019, US law enforcement made over 500,000 arrests for simple cannabis possession alone. An American Civil Liberties Union report from 2018 found that Black people in America are nearly four times more likely than Whites to be arrested for cannabis possession, despite similar usage rates between the two groups.