The markers of “progressive” drug policy are familiar to any individual maintaining an eye on the cannabis legalization movement in the United States: criminal record expungement and nominal equity measures such as license prioritization and zero-interest loans. When lawmakers include things like these progressive policies in legalization laws such as the a single that passed in Illinois in early July, a lot of activists applaud their passage.
But according to Kassandra Frederique, New York state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, these measures are a fantastic get started — absolutely nothing significantly less, but absolutely nothing extra. Frederique is eager to expand the conversation about ending prohibition beyond the purely carceral: arrest prices, incarceration prices, expungement.
“Expungement is not reparative justice,” she says. “Expungement is cleaning up the mess you currently produced.”
It is quick for her to tick off examples of other regions exactly where the damages of cannabis criminalization reside on a standard basis. Her list incorporates: “the way marijuana is utilized when drug-testing newborns or men and women who have youngster welfare circumstances, the truth that you can drop your job if you are a teacher and you smoke and the [Department of Education] finds out, the truth that [marijuana use] was the quantity 4 cause why a person was inadmissible to the U.S. or deported, the truth that in some areas you can not get access to social solutions like meals stamps, the truth that you can get kicked out of public housing… Marijuana prohibition is a gateway to devastation.”
A native New Yorker (who playfully challenges me when I say I’m “also in the city” because I’m calling her from Brooklyn), Frederique has generally been passionate about progress.
“I grew up in a really politically conscious and involved household,” she says. “My family members is Haitian, so politics and social justice are inbred in our culture.”
Frederique was functioning to get her masters in social operate at Columbia University when she was placed at an internship at the New York City headquarters of Drug Policy Alliance. The DPA is a 19-year-old non-profit whose stated mission is to “advance these policies and attitudes that ideal lower the harms of each drug use and drug prohibition, and to market the sovereignty of men and women more than their minds and bodies.”
It was there Frederique says she was introduced to the fight for drug policy reform for the 1st time.
“I was really conscious of drug policies and incarcerating men and women and men and women struggling with drugs, but not so a great deal the men and women functioning to modify these laws,” she says. “But it in no way occurred to me that there would be men and women out there like this.”
She also recalls possessing to “unlearn” her preconceived biases as soon as at the DPA.
“I blamed drugs for the devastation I saw in my neighborhood,” she says. “The factor that was crucial for me was understanding that drugs had been a scapegoat.”
Now, Frederique functions to enact legislation that will each finish marijuana prohibition and shift the conversation about cannabis — and illicit drugs in basic — into a broader, extra restorative mode.
The City That Never ever Sleeps… on Drug Policy Reform
New York, along with its neighbor New Jersey, was widely expected to legalize recreational cannabis this year. Even so, it didn’t take place in either state, regardless of some eleventh-hour work by activists and sympathetic lawmakers alike.
Frederique says absolutely nothing about this is new, not the fight for legalization in the Empire State nor the foot-dragging by politicians with misplaced priorities.
She traces the push for cannabis legalization in New York back to a campaign, began in 2010, to lower the quantity of marijuana arrests. They declined as a outcome, dipping extra than 80% in New York City — a victory, certain, but not the finish objective that the DPA is nonetheless functioning towards.
In 2019, she says the highly effective players up in Albany didn’t prioritize repairing the harms of prohibition, which is why 3 diverse bills that would have legalized cannabis failed to pass in the New York State Senate, and why Gov. Andrew Cuomo declined to add cannabis legalization to the state spending budget.
“Why we had been unable to push [legalization] more than the finish line was due to the fact men and women have particular interests,” she says. “They place politics more than men and women. So, we are going to be functioning to expose that as we move forward into the subsequent legislative session.”
Eventually, nonetheless, she says she would rather wait for the ideal type of legalization bill rather than accept a compromise that may well be extra palatable to the state legislature’s significantly less progressive members.
“Oftentimes, men and women think that we have to meet men and women exactly where they’re at,” she says. “I believe there is a spot for that. I do not believe it is with cannabis. If we go primarily based on incrementalism, it will generally advantage these that have been least impacted by marijuana prohibition.”
Conversation Is Essential
It is quick to advocate for cannabis legalization and then quit there. No extra threat of jail time for maintaining an ounce of flower handy? Fantastic! No extra fines for lighting up in public? Utopian!
But Frederique stresses the value of expanding the discourse about recreational cannabis legalization to include things like genuine options for the harms seasoned by the men and women cannabis prohibition has impacted the most: poor men and women, black men and women, Latinx men and women, girls, queer men and women and non-citizens.
“There’s a bigger conversation about how cannabis prohibition has detrimentally impacted communities,” she says. “And now you have men and women creating cash off of this substance, and communities standing to not advantage from that at all.”
To Frederique, really progressive policy goes far beyond mandating the expungement of cannabis charges and (nominally) establishing equity applications. She says the reparative justice required to repair the harm the War on Drugs has wrought for decades includes 4 actions: acknowledgement, atonement, accountability and action. In her eyes, we’re stuck on step a single.
“We are having to a spot exactly where men and women can not have a conversation about cannabis with no acknowledging the really genuine harms of cannabis prohibition. But there’s no atonement or accountability as to what occurred. And our conversations about action need to have to be: How do we shift energy? How do we invest in the communities and men and women that have been most harmed? How do prioritize them in the space?”
She says that when she believes equity applications are component of this option, there’s extra to be accomplished. In her opinion, the criminalization of cannabis have to be de-escalated just after a regulated industry is established. This comprehensive decriminalization is necessary for stopping additional harm to marginalized communities — exactly where members may well not have the sources to enter the legal market as soon as it is established.
“I believe the worst case situation [for legalization] is that we make a regulatory industry and preserve criminalization in its spot,” she says. “That is the antithesis of what we are fighting for. I believe we have to take the major swing at what is the extra excellent version.”
Frederique sees the push towards this type of justice as non-negotiable, and urges interested parties to listen closely to who’s speaking about equity and when.
“Cannabis reform offers us the chance to share energy, and to disrupt social handle,” Frederique says. “People are okay to have the conversation about how communities are devastated by marijuana prohibition when it pushes for cannabis legalization or regulation. They are significantly less prepared to have that conversation when it talks about providing energy up. That is when men and women do not want to speak about racial justice. That is when men and women want to let these communities go.”
Inform US, how do you believe cannabis policy can ideal serve marginalized communities?