Legalization to end decades of bias

Proposition 64 should be passed to end unjust incarceration rates


By Efrain Valdez, Advocate Staff

Proposition 64 is on California’s November ballot which, if passed, will legalize, regulate and decriminalize the use of marijuana throughout the Golden State.

Trying to legalize marijuana in the state that was the first to make cannabis legal for medical uses seems like an easy task, but the opposition is putting up a late push to keep the infamous plant illegal.

The opposition argues that if cannabis is legalized it will be more exposed to children through advertisements on radio, television and public locations.

Also, the opposition would argue that by legalizing cannabis it will create a business monopoly (like the tobacco industry), destroy mom and pop shops that cultivate cannabis for pharmacies and increase the number of under-the-influence drivers.

But people tend to always forget the effects on the communities of color when voting for new laws or regulations.

“I am concerned about the minorities who are getting arrested for small marijuana crimes. The elimination of those crimes will cut down the number of arrests,” freelance journalist David Downs said.

The California Department of Justice reported that between the years 2006 and 2015 there were nearly half a million people who were put in prison for cannabis crimes. The average inmate population in the state has hovered around 150,000 yearly, so just do math on how many of those inmates were in for cannabis crimes.

If cannabis is legalized it will also begin to destroy the stigma given to cannabis and its users.

“If Proposition 64 passes into law it will legalize hemp, further increase the medical use of cannabis and finally end the stigma,” Downs said.

Cannabis users are often perceived as people who are low-life losers, who are lazy and stay at home all day to smoke pot. Proposition 64, if passed, will help end the assumptions that all the users are lazy people who don’t contribute to society.

All this stigma on cannabis started back when President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. And because cannabis was considered the same menace as cocaine, opium and psychedelics, many minority more people of color were jailed with lengthy mandatory sentences.

Also, something that cannot be overlooked is the billions of dollars that come with legalizing cannabis. For example, Colorado recently passed a law that legalized marijuana. It is expected that the $1 billion mark in revenue will be reached sometime in November this year in that state.

The tax revenue that California will receive from cannabis taxes will allow the state to invest more money in schools, drug addiction research and public works projects.

Especially in a state the size of California with its financial power, the revenue that can come from passing Proposition 64 is mouthwatering to rebuilding the state’s economy.

The revenue from the taxes will also provide funding for projects that study the effects of cannabis on the brain and how to test levels of cannabis in a person’s system when driving.

By legalizing cannabis, black markets will be destroyed which will drive Mexican drug traffickers and cartels to slowly abandon the transportation of the dug into the state.

The first few polls showed that yes on Proposition 64 had a 20 percent advantage on the opposition, but most recently the gap has closed to 10 percent.

“I am concerned that it (Proposition 64) could fail and that we will miss an opportunity to end mass incarceration in the state that will help the police and minorities,” Downs said.

The citizens of California could miss a golden opportunity to end mass incarceration of its citizens and end the taboo and stigma related to medical and recreational cannabis.

“I am also concerned because I have seen this kind of thing happen (Proposition 19 in 2010) where all the polls showed that the law was going to pass but it obviously didn’t,” Downs said.