Marijuana. Weed. Pot. Mary Jane. Ganja. Reefer. This little plant has had quite the journey through the American imagination and this upcoming election season, there are twenty states with marijuana measures on their ballots. From expunging weed related offenses to legalizing and regulating marijuana, the battle for legalized marijuana use has moved to the ballot and it’s about time! Here are four reasons why we’re celebrating 4/20 by getting pumped to cast our votes:
Decriminalizing marijuana can help combat the high numbers of non violent drug offenders in our prisons.
It’s no secret that the United States is one of the largest incarcerators in the world. With a privatized prison system standing to benefit from the labor of predominately black and brown, working class folks due to a host of legislation that criminalizes drug use rather than providing funding for rehabilitation programs and other restorative models. Decriminalization through ballot measures can start to reverse some of the damages our criminal justice system has visited on folks who are more likely to be arrested for possession of drugs like marijuana. Twenty states have already decriminalized the possession of less than an once of marijuana, and the District of Columbia, possession arrests are down by 85%!
When done correctly, legalizing the sale of marijuana can help stimulate local economies and create jobs.
Marijuana business has been touted by many as the next frontier for capitalism-however, lots of folks have reservations about this, and rightfully so. In places like Colorado where marijuana is now legal, those who were most likely to be imprisoned for marijuana possession and use (black and brown, working class folks) have effectively been cut out of the marijuana business boom. Creating jobs is always great, but if we’re going to push legalization, we need to have a resposible effective approach to who gets to benefit from the boom. Will we continue to recreate the same strictures we railed against or will we take an active stance to push POC/queer owned and operated marijuana businesses to the forefront of the conversation? One such example of this is the marijuana resort being opened and operated on a Santee Sioux reservation in Flandreau, South Dakota. According to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the tribe is excited about the possibilities of not only an economic boom to the tribe, but to the town of Flandreau itself. Creating jobs, sustaining the economic growth, development and entrepreneurial spirit of the indigenous folks of the land!
It opens up an important and long overdue discussion on sensible drug policy that explores alternative solutions to substance abuse, such as harm reduction methods.
Our current cultural conversation about drug use has centered around the criminalization of drug use, rather than the roots of drug use, restorative justice models, and harm reduction methods to address drug abuse. Restorative justice models provide new ways for us to approach society’s problems and to approach them from a place of accountability, community care and transformation. Harm reduction methods look into safer use, managed use and providing services to support both folks who choose to use drugs and folks who choose to be abstinent from drug use. Ensuring care that is free of stigma and stereotypes can do more for us than criminalizing and incarcerating folks.
Drug prohibition isn’t working and we must reform our approach.
To be frank, marijuana prohibition hasn’t worked. Marijuana is still being used by many people, irregardless of its status as a scheduled drug. The stoner trope is one of the most used, recognized and responded to characterizations in our media’s history. People are making weed infused risotto!! Prohibition doesn’t stop a behavior from occurring, it only makes it harder to regulate safely and to make sure that folks can receive proper treatment and care that’s free from stigma, criminalization and further harm. Decriminalization that works toward legalization can help us create transformative solutions for the ways in which we engage with drug use, drug abuse, and the humanity of our communities. Check this list of ballot measures from our friends at Ballotpedia, get registered and get ready to make change in your community for sensible drug policy!