November 6 will be a big day for cannabis laws. That’s the date when voters will decide whether or not to legalize marijuana in California, the country’s most populous state. The ballot measure, Proposition 64, is supported by the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization that grew out of the campaign to decriminalize marijuana in the 1970s. If passed, Prop. 64 would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, grow up to six plants in their homes, and give away or sell up to an ounce to other adults.
While the question of legalizing marijuana is up to the legislature to answer, I believe the citizens of PA should have a say in the issue. I wish to help my fellow Pennsylvanians understand what legalization means to them, especially those who have been arrested for marijuana-related offenses.
Recent polls have shown that almost 60% of people in California support the legal use of recreational marijuana if it is regulated and taxed by the state. However, the majority of people support this idea on the condition that they have the opportunity to come clean and have their records expunged, which is not something that is included in the initiative. The only way to address this issue is to vote “no” on Proposition 64.
According to recent data, nearly half of those released from prison in Missouri return to prison. In Illinois, where I worked with parolees, the numbers are about the same.
There is a well-known fable we tell ourselves: When a person is released from prison, they have served their sentence and can now reintegrate into society and start a new life. It helps us exonerate society as a whole when someone goes back to jail – we can delude ourselves that they just went astray and can’t stop breaking the law.
The truth is much harder to justify. Society continually abandons its ex-prisoners, often leaving them with little opportunity to earn a living.
Many business owners and government agencies refuse to hire someone who has been in prison, even for low-skilled work. Unable to find legal paid work, many of them support themselves and their families with the only means available to them, which is illegal means such as drug trafficking.
Then, when they inevitably get caught, they go back to prison and the cycle continues.
So an arrest at a young age for a minor victimless crime can ruin a life.
I worked with many men and women, some younger than me, who had just served their fourth or fifth prison sentence for a teenage marijuana possession incident. It’s a vicious, unstoppable cycle, and it doesn’t have to be.
Currently, 18 states, including the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational marijuana or passed laws that will make it legal in the coming months. In Washington State, recreational use has become so common that as part of an incentive program, the government offers its citizens a free joint if they receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
This has led to a very unfair dichotomy: while more than 15 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana-related offenses in the past decade, millions more are able to enjoy the benefits of the drug without legal consequences.
This is, of course, unacceptable. How can we continue to punish and imprison people for something that is now perfectly legal in many places? Of course, any legalization of recreational marijuana must be accompanied by the release of all those currently imprisoned for marijuana-related crimes.
But we have to move on. Anyone released from prison should also be cleared of marijuana offenses and that should be automatic.
Why automatic deletion? Because it’s the only thing that really works.
Think about the difficulties you face every time you have to deal with government bureaucracy. Even renewing your driver’s license requires a few forms, an ID card and a few hours of free time. Imagine an even longer succession process going back several years.
There are also legal and bureaucratic costs to make sure everything is done correctly. It is an overwhelming task that requires too much money and time that could be used to find paid work. And without a clean record, finding a job is a pipe dream. Most employers do not want to hire someone with a criminal record, even if they have been convicted of something that is now legal and permissible.
Instead, states like Missouri, which are considering legalizing recreational marijuana for adults, should tie that legalization to an automatic disqualification from the process. And that’s where Missouri can take the initiative.
Although six or seven states (depending on who you ask) have passed laws that automatically expunge marijuana convictions, no state has done so via popular initiative.
We know that Missouri often enacts meaningful and effective reforms through the popular initiative process, and you can be sure that the legalization of recreational marijuana is not far off. If the text of the petition provides for automatic repeal, Missouri residents can speak with one voice to say they want no part of a system that punishes some and rewards others for the way they spend their free time.
We have to take this chance.For some reason, I have been thinking about how the choice of a weed legalization law in Colorado, the passing of which was announced Monday, will affect people of color in the state. It’s almost certain that people of color will suffer more than anyone else, since they are more likely to be stopped and searched, and more likely to be arrested and convicted of a marijuana possession crime than white people.. Read more about ny legalization news and let us know what you think.
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