Last week the California affiliates of the ACLU (Northern, Southern, and San Diego) endorsed Proposition 19, a cannabis reform initiative that will be on the ballot in November. Kudos to our ACLU peers in California. Prop 19 represents an important step forward in the development of rational marijuana policy. The initiative would allow adults age 21 and older to possess and grow small amounts of their own marijuana for personal use. It would also allow cities and counties to regulate and tax commercial sales. Unless individual cities and counties enact local regulatory structures, the sale of marijuana would remain illegal under state law.
The three California affiliates of the ACLU have 96,000 members combined and join a broad coalition
supporting Proposition 19’s common sense approach to controlling marijuana. Supporters of the initiative
include former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, the California NAACP, labor unions, and law enforcement officials from around the state.
The California Legislative Analyst's Office recently produced a good summary of the potential impacts of Prop 19's passage. In brief, the savings in state and local correctional costs "could reach several tens of millions of dollars annually." Court and law enforcement resources could be directed to more pressing priorities. And if cities and counties created regulated commercial markets, "the state and local governments could eventually collect hundreds of millions of dollars annually in additional revenues."
Perhaps the most compelling argument for passing Prop 19, though, is its potential for restoring some measure of faith in the fairness of our criminal justice system. As has been discussed in a previous blog post, the War on Marijuana is not colorblind. In Los Angeles County alone, the marijuana possession arrest rate of African Americans is more than 300% higher than the same arrest rate of whites, although blacks made up less than 10% of the county’s population. “The significant racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests have serious consequences, for young men of color in particular. The impact of a misdemeanor conviction for marijuana possession creates barriers in finding a house, a job, and even a school loan,” said Ramona Ripston, ACLU of Southern California’s executive director.
Spread the word, Washingtonians. Make sure your friends and family members in California know what's at stake.