Yesterday, the Children's Alliance announced its endorsement of Initiative 502, a measure that would decriminalize possession of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21 and over. I-502 will appear on the November 6 general election ballot.
"Current marijuana enforcement policy is failing children and families," said Children's Alliance executive director Paola Maranan. "Decades of study have proven the unequal treatment of communities of color in the criminal justice system, especially in enforcement of marijuana policy, and Washington's kids pay a terrible price for these persistent racial disparities."
The Children's Alliance joins a growing list of racial justice organizations endorsing I-502 that includes the state-area conference of the NAACP, El Centro de la Raza, the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, and the Minority Executive Directors Coalition. Individual endorsements include Benjamin Danielson, MD, clinic director of Odessa Brown Children's Clinic, and Dorothy Holland Mann, PhD, MPH, former regional health administrator for the U.S. Public Health Service.
The current policies hit families hard. The fiscal note for I-502 published by the state Office of Financial Management reports 9,308 arrests, and 3,259 convictions, for misdemeanor marijuana possession annually, with an average sentence of four days in jail. State and federal law also allow denial and termination of employment, and loss of financial aid for college, on the basis of a low-level, first time misdemeanor marijuana conviction.
"Current policies have caused children to be separated from their parents, and families to be trapped in poverty when adults are denied access to educational and economic opportunities," Maranan added. "Kids shouldn't bear the burden of system failures. Public policy should move us closer toward justice and equity. Initiative 502 is necessary to eliminate one source of the impact of racial disparities that are currently harming Washington's children, particularly children of color."
The Children's Alliance is a statewide public policy advocacy organization that works at the state and federal level to ensure that all children have what they need to thrive. To learn more about the Children's Alliance, go to www.childrensalliance.org. More information about New Approach Washington and Initiative 502 is available at www.newapproachwa.org.
Press Release From New Approach Washington