This week, nearly 3.5 million working families took a stand against the devastating effects marijuana prohibition has had on the residents of Washington, D.C. SEIU, the nation’s largest private sector labor union, the UFCW and D.C. Working Families came out in support of D.C’s marijuana legalization initiative (Initiative 71) and took a stand against the discriminatory enforcement practices that target African Americans and Latinos.
“The war on drugs has had a devastating impact on the ability of working families in the District to advance their economic standing,” says Delvone Michael, executive director for D.C. Working Families. “A progressive policy like Initiative 71, which removes marijuana from the criminal justice system, would serve as yet another step towards ending this failed policy in the District of Columbia.”
Every day, African-American and Latino families are needlessly torn apart just for minor marijuana possession. In Washington, D.C. African Americans are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession even though use among whites is the same.
“Workers who have criminal records that appear in background checks face significant discrimination from employers,” said Terry Cavanaugh, executive director of the D.C./MD State Council of the SEIU. “Initiative 71 is an opportunity for District voters to speak out against this discrimination. It should also embolden the DC Council to continue to make reforms to advance workers’ rights.”
The war on drugs is a war on hard-working African-American and Latino families and repealing marijuana prohibition in our nation’s capital is a pivotal step towards strengthening working class families all throughout America. Nearly 3 million children are growing up in U.S. households in which one or more parents are incarcerated. Ending mass incarceration and deportations due to failed drug policies is a working family issue and it’s incredibly powerful to see some of our nation’s biggest labor unions taking a stand on behalf of working class America.
This endorsement from the unions that serve as the voice of millions of American working families marks a historic step towards eliminating these racist penalties that prevent millions of African Americans and Latinos from having the opportunities to excel in the American workforce and continue to help strengthen our nation’s economy.
It is time we end the failed war on drugs so that no more African-American or Latino families are needlessly torn apart.
Jerónimo Saldaña is the legislative and organizing coordinator for the movement building team at the Drug Policy Alliance.