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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Drug Policy Action and Brave New Films Partner on Film Highlighting Discriminatory Cannabis Law Enforcement

Drug Policy Action and Brave New Films have teamed up to create a striking video released on Wednesday that illustrates the stark racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws in California.

Robert Greenwald, Brave New Films [AlterNet / Wikipedia]
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Robert Greenwald, Brave New Films:
“[T]he war on drugs has been not only an abject failure but a force for destruction that must be ended once and for all”
[AlterNet / Wikipedia]

The two-minute piece shines a spotlight on how discriminatory marijuana law enforcement is used to criminalize people of color and how the criminal justice and sentencing reforms contained in Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act will “set us on a new path” toward reducing mass incarceration.

“By making this film we hope to give Californians a sense of how truly urgent it is to enact sane, rational drug laws that do not unfairly target and oppress communities of color,” Brave New Films founder Robert Greenwald said. “Clearly, the numbers in this film – and the pages of every newspaper, every day – show that the war on drugs has been not only an abject failure but a force for destruction that must be ended once and for all.”

In November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 64, which contains sentencing reforms that eliminate or reduce many adult use and cultivation marijuana offenses.

Hundreds of thousands of Californians’ lives have been devastated by punishment for a nonviolent criminal offense involving a substance that even the President of the United States recently acknowledged is no more harmful or addictive than alcohol.

Proposition 64 would drive hundreds of millions of dollars in investments to low-income communities that have been most negatively impacted by the Drug War, according to the makers of the film.

Back in 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana when voters passed the Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215). In 2011, California lawmakers reduced possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use from a misdemeanor to a non-arrestable infraction, similar to a traffic ticket.

However, a recent report by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) found that, despite California’s more permissive marijuana possession laws, the state had nearly 500,000 marijuana arrests between 2006 and 2015. Those arrests disproportionately impacted African-American and Latino Californians.

Black, Latino, and white Californians use and sell marijuana at similar rates, yet black and Latino people are more likely to be arrested or ticketed for a marijuana law violation.

Black people were nearly five times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana felonies. Latinos are 35 percent more likely than white people to be arrested for a marijuana offense: 45 percent more likely for a misdemeanor and 26 percent more likely for a felony.

Lynn Lyman, Drug Policy Action: "Quote" [The Opportunity Agenda]
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Lynn Lyman, Drug Policy Action:
“With gripping images and narration, this short film raises up the critical racial and social injustice issues at stake under marijuana legalization in California”
[The Opportunity Agenda]

Further, marijuana infraction enforcement in Los Angeles and Fresno was nearly four times more severe for Black Californians and 1.5 times more severe for Latino Californians than whites.

“With gripping images and narration, this short film raises up the critical racial and social injustice issues at stake under marijuana legalization in California,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director for Drug Policy Action. “It upholds Brave New Films’ tradition of making hard-hitting films on the most pressing issues in our communities.”

Proposition 64 includes what supporters call “strong safeguards for children, workers, local governments and small businesses and strict anti-monopoly provisions and the toughest warning label and marketing-to-kids laws in the nation.” It also, unfortunately, includes some provisions that favor big corporate money over the thriving mom-and-pop cottage industry that cannabis has become over the past two decades of medical marijuana legalization, apparently a nod to the big money which is backing the measure.

Brave New Films partners with advocacy organizations on strategic campaigns for racial and economic justice, human rights, violence prevention and other issues. Founded by former Hollywood direct Robert Greenwald, the studio uses film to help clarify and draw attention to complex issues, mobilize citizens to act and give them the tools they need to make a difference. BNF’s latest feature-length documentary, Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA has been screened in nearly 1,000 venues around the country including at the U.S. Capitol.

Drug Policy Action, the advocacy and political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, is one of the primary backers of Proposition 64.

The video can be viewed here.

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