WILL PROP. 64 HURT BLACK COMMUNITIES?
Proponents of Prop. 64 are attempting to woo voters with statistics on how African Americans are arrested for cannabis at higher rates than everyone else. But what they fail to mention is that Prop. 64 won't legalize any of the offenses African Americans get arrested for. They also neglect to mention that in states that have legalized, racial disparity in arrests either continues unabated, or gets even worse.
The reality is, Prop. 64 only legalizes the two cannabis offenses almost no one – including African Americans – ever gets arrested for: possessing an ounce or less (which literally no one gets arrested for since it's been a non-arrestable infraction since 2011) and growing 6 plants or less. The offenses urban communities of color are most likely to get busted for – selling, possessing more than one ounce, and transporting – would remain totally illegal, punishable by up to 4 years in prison... unless, of course, you are one of the wealthy and connected few who can afford the licenses to circumvent these prohibitions.
So, while Prop. 64's supporters wildly misconstrue the impact the initiative would have on black communities as a way to gain sympathy and votes, in actuality, Prop. 64 will do nothing to keep African Americans out of jail for pot, and in all likelihood, it would lock even more people of color up. Prop. 64 would let the rich get richer selling weed “legally,” while urban and poor people of color continue to be imprisoned and have their lives destroyed for doing the same thing.
RACIAL DISPARITY IN ARRESTS: WORSE UNDER PROP. 64Supporters claim the only way to end racial disparity in arrests is to pass Prop. 64. But in both Washington and Colorado, African Americans are still arrested at disproportionately higher rates after legalization. In Colorado, African Americans are arrested at even more disproportionate rates than before legalization, according to a new report from the Colorado Department of Public Safety, and “intent to sell” arrests shot up 50 percent the first year. This is because poor, urban communities remain heavily policed, making them easy targets even under legalization.
Remember, in California, no one gets arrested for carrying the ounce that Prop. 64 would legalize. However, what African Americans are arrested disproportionately for is selling cannabis – a crime which Prop. 64 would legalize only for those wealthy and connected enough to buy licenses. Racial disparity in arrests would therefore only increase, because selling and other weed crimes would still be illegal for young, urban people of color.
What's worse, Prop. 64 reinstates something similar to the “three strikes, you're out” policy that has so decimated black and poor communities. A third offense in almost any category – possessing more than one ounce, selling any amount, transporting, and even sharing cannabis for those aged 18-20 – could land people in prison for up to 4 years. And who generally gets arrested again for the same offense? People in heavily policed neighborhoods. So, the seemingly lower penalties Prop. 64 supporters talk about won't really apply to most young people of color.
SIMPLY SHARING WEED PUNISHABLE BY JAIL OR PRISONUnder Prop. 64, even sharing any amount of cannabis would be a crime punishable by jail for young people aged 18-20 – even though it is not a crime today. This group – which includes most college students – would face up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine for simply sharing a joint. But if they have certain priors, they could be sentenced to state prison for 4 years... for sharing weed. And any misdemeanor conviction makes offenders ineligible for government assistance programs, including student aid, welfare, and public housing. This would negatively impact black communities more than any other.
PROP. 64 WON'T GET ANYONE OUT OF JAILProp. 64 would only free those whose crimes would not have been illegal if the initiative had been the law at the time of the offense. But Prop. 64 only legalizes simple possession and growing 6 plants. Since no one in California is serving time for possession, that only leaves growing 6 plants or less, which Prop. 64 would legalize only under strict local regulations. So, if there were any people locked up for growing 6 plants and they were abiding by the strict regulations Prop. 64 would impose, then theoretically, they could be freed. But in reality, this is highly unlikely.
“Prop. 64 only allows adults 21 and older to cultivate marijuana, and then only a MAXIMUM of six plants, and then ONLY if their local jurisdiction allows such cultivation, and THEN only if the cultivator complies with ALL the conditions which local jurisdictions are allowed to place on its residents,” states California attorney Letitia Pepper. “If this isn't what you thought Prop. 64 means, better read the whole thing and think about what it says. It is BAD.”
BLACK COMMUNITIES BETTER OFF WITHOUT PROP. 64In 2014, California passed Prop. 47, which downgraded simple possession of almost all drugs from felonies to misdemeanors. One million people will be positively impacted and thousands have been released from jail or received lighter sentences thanks to Prop. 47. So, California is already drastically reducing drug arrests and the prison population in the communities most damaged by harsh drug laws – no convoluted, corporate legalization initiative necessary.
Don't be fooled by the rhetoric. Prop. 64 will only benefit the wealthy. Prop. 64 is bad for black communities and bad for all urban youth.