Ending Marijuana Prohibition
With the support of DPA, in November 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to approve marijuana use for all adults over 21 years old with 55% of the vote in each state. The elimination of criminal penalties for possession took effect shortly after the initiatives were passed, and both states are busy developing systems of licensing cultivation and distribution of marijuana. Several other states are now considering tax and regulate. In California, DPA is working with other advocates to help set the stage and prepare 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, which have been engaging in a process of regulation since Proposition 215 was passed in 1996. 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
DPA has worked tirelessly to increase sterile syringe access in California to prevent HIV and hepatitis C transmission. In 2011, we won key victories that expanded syringe access to every county in the state. We are preparing now to defend and expand those victories in 2014 when the state’s law allowing for non-prescription sales of syringes will have to be renewed. In 2012, DPA’s California office, with critical support from allies, succeeded in getting 911 Good Samaritan legislation signed and enacted into law. This law provides limited immunity to individuals who seek medical attention to save the life of someone experiencing an overdose. In 2013, we will continue our work to reduce overdose deaths by seeking expanded access to naloxone, a generic, non-narcotic antidote to opiate overdose.
Decriminalizing Drug Law Violations
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 having all drug use treated as a public health issue and not through the criminal justice system, in 2013 we aim to reduce the penalty for simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, eliminate the sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine offenses, and eliminate the ban on public benefits for people convicted of drug felonies in California. These reforms will reduce the state prison population and county jail populations in actual numbers as well as in length of stay. These reforms will decrease recidivism rates through enhanced access to public benefits and drug treatment. These reforms reflect public opinion in favor of fairer sentencing for drug law violations and eliminating collateral consequences.