folder Filed in Policy
Prop 64 is a Human Rights Issue
Michael Cervieri access_time 2 min read

The United States arrests someone every 25 seconds for possessing drugs for their personal use, according to a new study.

Released in mid-October by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, the report covers the effects of America’s drug war while making a human rights case for decriminalization.

As has long been known, the report demonstrates that people of color are arrested and prosecuted for simple possession to a far greater degree than their white counterparts.

For example, the report finds that “In the 39 states for which we have sufficient police data, Black adults were more than four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white adults” despite lower usage rates.

While the report focusses on all illicit drugs, those arrested, prosecuted and sentenced possessed less than a gram of the drug in question. Take, for instance, Texas, where “90 percent of people sentenced to jail or prison for possession in 2015 were convicted of possessing less than a gram.”

All of which provides important background for a talk Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, gave during September’s State of Marijuana Conference in California.

In it, Nadelmann discusses California’s upcoming Proposition 64 initiative which would legalize recreational marijuana use in that state.

While experts estimate that California marijuana legalization will lead to an industry worth tens of billions of dollars a year, Nadelmann expands on the iniative’s benefits.

“This is not just about legalizing weed,” he says. “It’s also about sentencing reform; and about social justice; and about human rights.”

As Nadelmann notes, passage of Proposition 64 will allow those currently convicted of marijuana drug felonies that the initiative covers the ability to expunge the charges from their records. The result, it’s hoped, will dramatically reduce the impact marijuana incarceration has had on individuals and their families.

As the Human Rights Watch report notes, “the enormous resources spent to identify, arrest, prosecute, sentence, incarcerate, and supervise people whose only offense has been possession of drugs is hardly money well spent, and it has caused far more harm than good.”

Photo: Caged, by Dave Nakayama.

ethan nadelmann human rights prop 64