Ballot Initiative to Address Massive Inequality Issues Facing the Cannabis Sector, Provides Millions to City Services, Grants Local Citizens a Say in Neighborhood Decisions
LOS ANGELES—Southern California Coalition (SCC), the largest, most inclusive cannabis industry trade organization in nation’s largest state-legal cannabis market, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) announced the Los Angeles Chapter of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization has endorsed SCC’s goal to create a more inclusive cannabis sector through responsible policies, along with its work on Proposition M— the most equitable, inclusive and comprehensive cannabis regulatory framework ever to appear on a citywide ballot. Proposition M grants the Los Angeles City Council the right tools to improve access to economic opportunity, healthcare, and youth empowerment in Los Angeles while moving equality issues forward in California’s state-legal cannabis industry. The measure also works to ensure licenses are not confined to a small, select group of individuals.
Today, the majority of people arrested for marijuana are not kingpins, but individuals with small amounts of marijuana. According to the ACLU, an African American person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a Caucasian person, even though African Americans and Caucasians use marijuana at similar rates. Such racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist in all regions of the country—in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small African American populations. In 96% of U.S. counties with more than 30,000 people in which at least 2% of the residents are African American—African Americans are arrested at far higher rates than Caucasians for marijuana possession, revealing one consistent trend in the nationwide arrest data: a significant racial bias.
“Our nation’s federal drug policies are counterproductive, financially wasteful and racially biased,” said Ron Hasson, General Management Executive, NAACP. “Californians took an important step forward when they passed Prop 64, signaling to our federal government that it’s time to overturn these outdated policies. Now that the fear of being unjustly targeted and charged with a misdemeanor or felony is lessening in California, more minorities would like to participate in the industry. However, our nation’s largest cannabis market is still blocking people of color and those who have paid the highest price under these failed laws from participating in the now state- legal marketplace. Prop M will help remove barriers for the most disenfranchised, and empower Los Angeles City Council to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework to overturn these senseless injustices. The measure would provide tens of millions of dollars for city services, such as resources for first responders and after-school programs that directly benefit our youth and communities, and give our neighborhoods a meaningful voice in the process. That’s something we not only support, but commend. We hope to see more cities and counties around the country adopt comprehensive measures like Prop M as another way to combat obvious areas of inequality facing state-legal cannabis markets.”
In California alone, nearly half a million marijuana felony and misdemeanor arrests occurred over the course of the last decade—disproportionately and irresponsibly oppressing African American and Hispanic youth. According to a recent Drug Policy Alliance report, California had nearly a half million marijuana felony and misdemeanor arrests between 2006 and 2015—with youth under 18 years of age making up the majority of misdemeanor arrests. With tens of thousands of Californians previously arrested prior to Prop 64’s passing—and still no comprehensive federal laws on the books to date—the costs to individuals and their families are substantial. A charge or record can mean the loss of a job, benefits, and one’s livelihood, and for communities, cannabis arrests mean wasting money when it could be better spent.
“It’s no secret that our nation’s marijuana laws are ineffective and racially biased,” said co-founder of the Southern California Coalition, co-founder of the California Minority Alliance and chair of Los Angeles NAACP, Donnie Anderson. “We are very thankful to have the Los Angeles NAACP’s support and endorsement of Proposition M. Equality and the safety of our neighborhoods are important issues, and this is a precedent-setting measure—not just for L.A.—but for the entire cannabis industry. Angelenos living in the country’s largest cannabis marketplace will finally have a chance to say yes to Prop M, and create an inclusive marketplace that doesn’t whitewash issues, but addresses them. We are confident Los Angeles won’t end up with a suppressive marketplace that purposefully only benefits a select few, and we look forward to seeing the voters of L.A. pass Prop M.”
According to an October 2016 Gallup poll, American support for legalizing cannabis is at 60%—
the highest it’s been in 47 years, and according to a 2015 Harris poll, more than 80% of Americans support legalization of marijuana for medical use. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have chosen to create regulated marijuana programs, including four of the five most populated states in the nation. However, many states and municipalities have often failed to take a comprehensive approach to legalization. SCC’s goal is to continue better educating decision makers on the issues. SCC is working to ensure more comprehensive and inclusive approaches to legalization are implemented and that flawed policies do not continue to be mirrored, or worse yet, enacted in new markets and states coming online moving forward.