D.C. Marijuana Initiative Receives Major Civil Rights Endorsements from D.C. NAACP and the D.C. Branch of the National Organization of Women

Press Release October 22, 2014
Media Contact

<p>Contact: &nbsp;Dr. Malik Burnett, 443-821-0260 or&nbsp;Tony Newman, 646-335-5384</p>

Today, the Washington, D.C. chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the D.C. Branch of the National Organization for Women came out in support of marijuana legalization and endorsed D.C.’s Initiative 71.

Initiative 71, which is on the November 4 ballot would legalize the possession of up to two ounces marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and allows individuals to grow up to six plants in their home. D.C. laws prevent the ballot initiative from addressing the taxation and sale of marijuana, however, the D.C. Council is currently considering a bill which would account for such provisions.

Additionally, the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs released its groundbreaking report yesterday entitled, The Collateral Consequences of Arrests and Convictions under D.C., Maryland, and Virginia Law. The report is the first of its kind to examine the effect of the collateral consequences associated with arrests for residents in the DMV area.

"The endorsements of the local NAACP and D.C. N.OW. chapters further underscore the fact that ending the war on drugs is a civil rights issue of significant importance in the District of Columbia," said Dr. Malik Burnett, D.C. policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Additionally, the release of the Washington Lawyers Committee’s report on collateral consequences, begins to deconstruct some of the additional harms caused by the war on drugs and points to opportunities where tax revenue from marijuana can be used to advance restorative justice.”  

The possession of one ounce of marijuana is currently decriminalized in the District of Columbia, and persons found with more than this amount face a $25 civil infraction. Data from the Metropolitan Police Department reveals that 77 percent of tickets written during decriminalization have been in communities of color. “The NAACP D.C. Branch strongly advocates to end the war on drugs, which has caused significant damage in our communities. Endorsement of Initiative 71 does not mean that the NAACP is pro marijuana, however, we view Initiative 71 as a step towards ending discriminatory drug polices.” said Akosua Ali, President of the NAACP D.C. Branch.

Earlier this month, the D.C. Council voted unanimously to allow individuals with criminal records for marijuana possession to have those records sealed. This is the first of two votes required for this law to take effect the second vote will take place later in October.

“Criminalization of marijuana has played a major role in the racial disparities and injustice in the criminal justice system,” said Susan Mottet, president of D.C. N.O.W. “D.C. NOW works to end all discrimination in D.C. and urges the voters to pass Initiative 71 to help put an end to this tool for discrimination.”

On October 30, the D.C. Council will hold a joint hearing of the Business Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee and the Tax and Revenue Committee to look at the business and fiscal impact of marijuana legalization in the District of Columbia. Advocates will provide testimony support of using the proceeds from legalization towards rebuilding the communities harmed by the war on drugs.

“Given the damage that has been done to our communities from the war on drugs, it only makes sense that the revenues generated from the taxation of marijuana be reinvested into the communities harmed the most, this is the definition of socioeconomic justice,” said Akosua Ali. 

This endorsement comes on top of D.C. Working Families, local SEIU, and local UFCW who endorsed Initiative 71 early last week

“The D.C. Community is coming together to make a strong stand in its commitment to not only ending marijuana prohibition, but to restoring the communities most damaged by these policies” said Dr. Malik Burnett.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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