Hundreds of years of taboo and negative connotations must be undone to win the war on cannabis stigma. In the forefront of the battleground is Chris Alexander, the Executive Director of New York’s OCM (Office of Cannabis Management) and a Queens native battling to put the power back in the offenders’ hands. This might seem strange and uncouth, but Chris believes in his narrative, and he is bringing it into the public eye. He wants to educate the public on cannabis and destroy uneducated opinions on it. Even though he has not been in this role for very long, his impact has been massive. What started the passion for Chris Alexander?
Chris, The Queens Native
Growing up at the forefront of where cannabis users and dealers were labeled harsh criminals, Chris Alexander experienced firsthand the detrimental effects the thousands of arrests due to cannabis had on the community. Lives were irrevocably changed due to harsh punishment nonlinear to the actual offense. This is what drives Chris to bring about change and legalize the use of cannabis.
His main motivation was to see a decrease in the arrests that were made due to the association with cannabis. He started looking for allies in his uphill battle and reached out to any member of the community that could aid him. This led him to engage with community leaders, faith representatives, and a lot of groundwork on the streets trying to educate the people of New York. Chris’s beliefs led him to play many roles on many levels, but some of his major work can be found in his efforts to end unfair prison practices, such as solitary confinement.
Boosting The Economy
Due to the decline of the economy, the ability of a business to maintain a storefront has become increasingly difficult, especially as a start-up. This led Chris Alexander to develop a major fund that was aimed at helping small businesses to get their boot in the door.
How does this tie in with his efforts to end the war on cannabis? He will award these funds to previously convicted cannabis offenders in New York, taking into account their business plans and previous experience. He, therefore, aims to take their negative past connections to cannabis and turn it into their superpower and give them the means to support and grow the economy. Chris is fervently focused on molding a bad past into a sustainable and successful future for many previously disadvantaged offenders.
Favoring the previously convicted cannabis offender has, of course, earned Chris major critique, especially considering that the people he is trying to support have been to prison. This has made many people raise their eyebrows and draw their lips in a sneer. It has also garnered him a lot of pushback.
He did this purposefully, however, knowing that the majority of New York’s cannabis offenders are of Black and Latino descent. He is striving to provide stability and economic freedom to disadvantaged ethnic groups that have been disproportionately impacted by the failed War on Drugs. According to June 2021 statistics, 91% of arrested New York marijuana offenders were Black or of Hispanic heritage. This drove Alexander to act in spite of a lot of negative critiques and hurdles.
Chris has shown his true motivations, placing his effort into a stream that can not only provide monetary gain for a wide community but also release them from the chains of uneducated stigmas. By empowering people on the ground level, and working on legalizing cannabis, he has claimed many territories previously untrodden as now conquerable. His continued efforts ensure that people are educated on the use and properties of cannabis, but also the danger of inciting biased opinions linked to cannabis.
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