The Service Employees International Union, United Commercial Food Workers, and D.C. Working Families endorsed Initiative 71, D.C.'s marijuana legalization initiative. Initiative 71, which is on the November 4th 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.
"These major labor endorsements show that the elimination of marijuana prohibition is an issue of significant importance to workers in the District of Columbia," said Dr. Malik Burnett, D.C. Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Initiative 71 would eliminate unfairly harsh punishments for minors offenses, making it less likely that our young people get a lifelong criminal record that makes it harder to get a job, an apartment or credit card."
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% of tickets written during decriminalization have been in communities of color. "The war on drugs has had a devastating impact on the ability of working families in the District to advance their economic standing," said Delvone Michael, Execuitve 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."
Last week 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. "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."
On October 30th, 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 in support of using the proceeds from legalization towards rebuilding the communities harmed by the war on drugs.
"The legalization of marijuana in Washington State and Colorado has not only created small businesses, which provide jobs with living wages, but has generated tax revenue dedicated towards improving public education and public safety, said Mark P. Federici, President, UFCW Local 400. "Given the significant damage that prohibition has caused in communities of color within the District of Columbia, it only makes sense that both the jobs and tax revenue should be invested in those same communities."