Ending Marijuana Prohibition
With the support of DPA, Oregon, Washington D.C. and Alaska became the third, fourth and fifth U.S. jurisdictions to legalize marijuana for adults over 21 years old. The voters in these states endorsed the groundbreaking programs in Colorado and Washington State by voting them into their own states. Oregon and Alaska are in the process of creating their cultivation and distribution systems, while Washington D.C., which only legalized home cultivation and possession, plans a strategy for licensing sales. In California, DPA is working with other advocates to bring a legalization initiative to the ballot in 2016. DPA is committed to supporting an initiative based on research, public health and the expertise and hard work of local municipalities and the medical marijuana industry. DPA is confident that the proposed initiative will be comprehensive and will establish a competent, community-based system to tax, regulate and control marijuana in the largest state in the country.
Reducing Health Harms From Drugs
In 2011, DPA won key victories that expanded syringe access to every county in the state. In 2012, with support from allies, we succeeded in getting 911 Good Samaritan legislation signed and enacted into law, providing limited immunity to individuals seeking medical attention for someone experiencing an overdose. In 2014, we victoriously defended and expanded our law allowing for non-prescription sales of syringes with new legislation signed into law. We also achieved victory with a law allowing pharmacy sales of naloxone without a prescription to people who may witness or experience an opiate overdose. In 2015, DPA will focus on the successful implementation of these two laws statewide, along with advancing harm reduction strategies in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties.
Reducing Mass Incarceration through Criminal Justice Sentencing Reform
U.S. police make over 1.5 million arrests every year for drug law violations. Since the 1970s, drug war practices have led to unprecedented levels of incarceration and the marginalization of tens of millions of Americans – disproportionately poor people and people of color – while utterly failing to reduce problematic drug use and drug-related harms. The severe consequences of a drug arrest are life-long and create permanent barriers to economic and educational attainment, physical and emotional wellbeing and political participation. Criminalization has only intensified the potential harms of drug misuse, while utterly failing to curb drug use or supply. Decriminalization means nobody goes to jail and nobody gets punished simply for possessing a small amount of a drug. This is a model that has proven successful, resulting in decreases in diseases and addiction, without increasing drug use. Decriminalization is an essential tool in establishing a truly public health approach to drugs and drug use.
The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial and ethnic groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites. Higher arrest and incarceration rates for Blacks and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on people of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system. Please join us in the call for addressing the racial disparities in California’s criminal justice system.
As we move toward our ultimate goal of ending criminal penalties for drug use and possession, in 2015 we are sponsoring legislation to protect immigrants from deportation for low level drug offenses and to reign in civil asset forfeiture abuse.