Drug Policy Reform
Moms United to End the War on Drugs
Statement Endorsing Measures to End Marijuana Prohibition
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.
NEW SENTENCING GUIDELINES TAKE EFFECT SATURDAY, COULD SHORTEN DRUG SENTENCES FOR TENS OF THOUSANDS IN FEDERAL PRISONS
November 6, 2014 (Spring Valley) A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) in Spring Valley joins dozens of organizations across the U.S. to highlight changes to federal drug sentencing guidelines. On Saturday, November 1st, courts may begin considering petitions from incarcerated individuals for sentencing reductions.
This action is separate from a California ballot proposition passed Tuesday, that will also reduce sentencing for low-level drug offenders in California.
Thousands of people who are currently serving long, punitive drug-related sentences in federal prisons could be eligible to apply for reduced sentences under the federal rule changes, although no one who benefits from this reform may be released for another year, or prior to November 1, 2015. The U.S. Sentencing Commission *USCC) estimates that close to 45,000 people currently behind bars would be eligible to have their cases reviewed to determine whether their sentences should be reduced. This change could save taxpayers billions of dollars and would reunite thousands of families with their loved ones.
"We are finally seeing reforms in harsh, punitive drug laws that led to mass incarceration and extraordinary suffering and separation of people with addictive illness and their families," said Gretchen Burns Bergman, lead organizer of the national Moms United to End the War on Drugs campaign.
The changes taking effect on Saturday follow a July 2014 vote by the United States Sentencing Commission to retroactively apply an amendment approved by the same government panel in April 2014 that lowers Federal Guidelines for sentencing persons convicted of drug trafficking crimes. Beginning on Saturday, federal judges may begin referencing the reduced guidelines in the course of sentencing persons convicted of drug trafficking crimes and individuals who were sentenced under the old drug sentencing guidelines may begin petitioning a federal judge for a hearing to evaluate whether their sentence can be shortened to match the reduced guidelines. The underlying drug guidelines amendment that shortened the length of drug sentencing guidelines was approved by the United States Sentencing Commission and submitted to Congress for review in April. Congress has taken no action to disapprove of these reforms to the drug guidelines, setting the stage for these reforms to take effect on Saturday.
The United States Sentencing Commission’s decision reflects efforts underway in Congress and by the Obama Administration to reform federal drug sentencing laws, as well as a broader effort to adapt federal policy to overwhelming public support for reforming drug laws, ending marijuana prohibition, and reducing collateral consequences of a drug conviction. In 2010 Congress unanimously passed legislation reducing the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Bipartisan legislation reforming mandatory minimum sentencing, the Smarter Sentencing Act, has already passed out of committee this year and is awaiting a floor vote in the Senate.
Attorney General Eric Holder has made numerous changes this year, including directing U.S. Attorneys to charge certain drug offenders in a way that makes ensures they won’t be subject to punitive mandatory minimum sentencing.
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission and a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, mandatory minimums have significantly contributed to overcrowding and racial disparities in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The BOP operates at nearly 140 percent capacity – and is on track to use one-third of the Justice Department’s budget. More than half of the prisoners in the BOP are serving time for a drug law violation. Even though African-Americans are no more likely than Whites to use or sell drugs, evidence shows they are far more likely to be prosecuted for drug law offenses and far more likely to receive longer sentences than Whites. With less than 5% of the world’s population – but nearly 25% of the world’s prison population – the U.S. leads the world in the incarceration of its own citizens.
“I salute all legislation that supports a more clinically-sensitive and informed understanding that incarcerating people with addictive illness and depriving these same persons of clinically-informed drug and alcohol treatment, vocational support and academic support is a direct pathway to horrific, needless recidivism,” said Caroline Stewart, acting president of the board of A New PATH. “My son has been caught in the revolving door of technical violations complicated by relapse over and over again and not once has time spent incarcerated improved him or our community in any way. My son has the capacity to be a kind, committed and dedicated community member when receiving the right support and services.