Prop 64 is a significant step toward ending the second-class citizenry created by our draconian drug laws.
I am a former drug-war prisoner who became politicized after experiencing the corruption, abuse of power and oppression that is systemic in the criminal “justice” system. I am tired of settling for crumbs disguised as “compromise” when it comes to any issue that is fundamentally about justice, especially when it relates to mass incarceration and our failed war on drugs. Yet, at the end of the day, I must embrace any step that takes us closer to a drug policy that embodies compassion, justice and commonsense. That’s why I support Proposition 64, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), and so should all people voting in California.
Supporting Prop 64 is about social justice, and beginning to repair some of the wrongs created by almost a century of cannabis prohibition. Consistent with the history of drug prohibition in this country, the war on cannabis is rooted in racism. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which basically outlawed cannabis and hemp in the United States, was a thinly veiled attack on Mexican immigrants.
The atrocious injustices committed against human beings in the name of an outlawed herb continue to this day. People of color continue to be disproportionately arrested and incarcerated for weed. Approximately half of all drug arrests are for marijuana and almost nine out of ten are for possession, not distribution. Even though African Americans consume marijuana at rates slightly less than white folks, they are almost four times more likely to be arrested for it.
After obtaining a conviction, folks throughout this country face a lifetime of discrimination in important areas including employment, voting, student loans, housing, food stamps, welfare assistance and adoption. In the United States, we incarcerate more people for nonviolent drug offenses than the entire European Union does for ALL offenses combined, and they have 100 million more people!
Marijuana criminalization has largely driven the war on drugs, a failed policy that has created tremendous harm. Prop 64 redresses some of this harm, providing an opportunity for resentencing considerations in addition to mandating that tax revenue generated by the legalization of the sale of marijuana be directed toward the communities most affected by cannabis criminalization. Funding for behavioral health treatment, linkage to medical care, and job placement and legal services to help address reentry barriers may all provide a genuine chance for mending some of the damage caused by this shameful system of prohibition and mass incarceration.
Prop 64 also creates a Bureau of Marijuana Control to work with the Department of Public Health. The Bureau will promote consumer safety by mandating strict regulation; ensuring product safety; and testing for molds, pesticides and other chemicals. In addition to imposing a tax that will fund research and substance-use treatment programs, Prop 64 directs millions toward California youth for substance-use treatment as well as drug and alcohol education, prevention and treatment. It would fund programs for at-risk youth, prohibit advertising to minors and create campaigns to reduce driving while under the influence. Revenue from marijuana taxes will fund extensive research on cannabis and the impact of Prop 64, with the specific intent of reducing any unintended negative consequences arising from the initiative. Money will be set aside for alleviating the environmental damage secondary to illicit grow operations.
Prop 64 is a win for California. It advances social justice, personal liberty and recovery for communities devastated by the failed war on drugs. Perhaps most importantly, it allows folks who’ve been harmed by archaic marijuana policy to begin to repair the damage inflicted on their lives. I urge you to join me and GLIDE in voting YES on Proposition 64.
William Buehlman is the Outreach Coordinator for GLIDE’s HIV and Hepatitis C Prevention Services, aka GLIDE Harm Reduction Programs. He has worked at GLIDE for two years and been providing direct services using a harm reduction approach for over 15 years. He is a passionate advocate for social justice and committed to being of service to the communities most affected by the injustices of the drug war.