As responsible mothers and parents, Moms United to End the War on Drugs supports measures to end marijuana prohibition, because we are fed up with the violence and the loss of lives and liberty that it has caused. There are several ballot initiatives that are being proposed for California in 2012 that address this issue, as well as efforts to legalize marijuana in other states, most prominently Colorado and Washington.
Moms are uniting and leading the charge to end marijuana prohibition, just as a group of mothers did to end alcohol Prohibition in the 1930’s. We are demanding an end to the pointless and punitive criminalization of drug users, and the needless deaths created by the illegal drug trade. The “War on Drugs” has become a war waged against individuals who use drugs, people who struggle with drug addiction, and their families. We are joining throughout the state and across the nation, with other organizations of mothers who have lost their children to overdose, and parents whose families have been ravaged by both addiction and incarceration, in an effort to promote therapeutic and restorative policies. We simply cannot continue to try to punish our way out of what is essentially a public health problem.
Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes, both of which are legal for adults. There is no violent behavior side-effect to marijuana use, and it has documented medicinal benefits. Although violence isn’t associated with cannabis use, the murder and mayhem created by the illegal drug trade and drug cartels, which generate 60% of their profits from marijuana alone, is wreaking havoc.
Despite the fact that marijuana possession arrests tripled in Californian in the last 20 years, marijuana remains widely available to young people. Regulating marijuana would mean that young people have less access, and that law enforcement can focus on more important public safety matters. It would allow us to utilize our dwindling resources on addiction treatment services. Prevention, harm reduction and treatment programs are far too few, and getting further diminished as funding is cut. Although marijuana and other drug use occurs in all communities, African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately affected by these tactics of mass arrest and imprisonment for low-level nonviolent drug offenses.
Approximately 2.3 million people, one in one hundred adults, are incarcerated in the United States. Over 30,000 people are in prison in California for a drug offense, 2/3rds of them for personal possession. We spend $49,000 per year on one inmate in California prisons. In these dire economic times this is beyond irresponsible.
Classifying someone who consumes marijuana as a criminal is a waste of law enforcement resources and promotes fear-based stigma and discrimination. It can also lead to life-long social exclusion. The consequences of a drug conviction may include loss of public housing, educational and employment opportunities.
Moms United supports measures that lower criminal penalties for drug use in general and create systems to control and regulate marijuana for adults, such as: The 2012 Regulate Marijuana Like Wine California ballot initiative, which would establish a regulatory model for other states to follow, and reduce the violence associated with the control of the market by the cartels thereby protecting public safety; and The Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012,which would decriminalize marijuana use, possession, cultivation, transportation and distribution for adults aged 19 and older, and save California hundreds of millions of dollars. These measures as well as the California Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act and the Marijuana Penalties Act are all viable measures to stem the tide of destruction created by decades of failed prohibition.
We call for an end to marijuana prohibition not because we are in favor of drug use, but because we know that the war on drugs has done more harm than good to our society. It is time to endorse and promote policies of harm reduction and restoration, rather than retribution. It is time to end angry politics, and support positive and healing alternatives, for the sake of all of our children and the futures of the next generation.
Gretchen Burns Bergman is Co-Founder & Executive Director of A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing). Moms United to End the War on Drugs is a campaign of A New PATH, in partnership with other organizations and individuals across the nation.