This is a call to action to mothers across California to use your moral authority to speak out to end a broken system of marijuana prohibition that has been tearing our families apart for far too many decades.
It may seem counter-intuitive that responsible mothers are promoting marijuana legalization, but it is, indeed, for the sake of our children and future generations.
Proposition 64 will put an end to a criminal justice response to cannabis that has led to mass incarceration of non-violent drug offenders. Every year there are over 8,800 felony marijuana arrests in California. The war on drugs has not only failed, but it is decimating families across all social and cultural spectrums.
I'm not pro marijuana, but I am against a system that criminalizes young people, thus disrupting and destroying lives and saddling them with the lifelong exclusionary consequences of a felony drug conviction.
Currently marijuana is widely accessible to our kids in all neighborhoods. And, our drug laws are disproportionately harming black and Hispanic communities. Proposition 64 will prevent the destruction of thousands of California families.
Mothers, please don't be swayed by the scare tactics of the criminal justice system, which has a financial stake in keeping people behind bars. Unfortunately, when in doubt, parents often remain silent, but we can't afford to accept the status quo any longer. Our children's futures are at stake.
By voting in favor of legalization and regulation you are in good company with a broad ranged coalition of supporters including many law enforcement officers, more than 50 physicians and the California Medical Association.
Prop 64 is called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act because it allows adults over 21 to use marijuana responsibly while providing strong safeguards to protect our youth. It also protects children under 18 from arrest for marijuana violations, so that a youthful mistake doesn't become a pipeline to prison.
As a mother whose son spent 11 years of his young life cycling in and out of prison for marijuana possession, I know first-hand the hardships that these punitive prohibitionist policies create for both the individual and their families. One of the most significant parts of Prop 64 is that it allows people like my son to reclassify past marijuana convictions on their records. It is a historic opportunity for reparation.
Punitive and senseless drug policies have resulted in mass arrests and a shocking number of children who are robbed of mothers and fathers. As moms, we need to be sure that our communities don't continue to suffer these tragedies. Prop 64 will allow law enforcement to use their resources to protect our communities from real crimes. And, tax revenues will be dedicated to youth drug prevention, education and after-school programs.
Today the easiest drug for teens to obtain is marijuana, because drug dealers don't ask for IDs. Prop 64 will provide a much-needed comprehensive system of regulation and control. It will reduce youth access by banning marijuana advertising to minors and near schools. It has strict requirements for packaging and labeling. Four states have already legalized marijuana and the sky didn't fall. In fact the latest data indicates that teen drug use is slightly down in Colorado.
Ask yourself: Do you think your family, community and country would be better off if we reinstated prohibition of alcohol, making its use criminal as it was in the 1920's, rather than a regulated, taxed and legally used substance as it is today? And, marijuana is actually a safer substance than alcohol in most respects.
The tide is turning on the drug war, because people are speaking out to demand human rights. Five states have legalization measures on their ballots in 2016. It isn't a matter of "if" we will end the war on marijuana or "when." I believe the time is now, because we can't afford to lose any more lives and liberties.
Moms...take back your power. Vote for change and right these disastrous wrongs. Vote Yes on 64!
Gretchen Burns Bergman is Executive Director and Co-Founder of A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) and Lead Organizer of PATH's international Moms United to End the War on Drugs Campaign.