An Open Letter to Tennessee Legislators
As your constituent,
I am writing to ask you to please support SB 256/HB 235, seeking to amend criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
It’s time legislators ask more critical questions about the current legislation, such as:
Is this the best we can do?
1) Does it effectively reduce drug abuse?
2) Does it effectively reduce violent drug offenses and trafficking?
We now have decades of data that clearly informs us that this legislation has done very little to curb these issues, and may possibly be contributing to their perpetuation.
Is it currently causing more damage than good?
1) Is it a contributor to institutionalized oppression of people of color?
2) Is maintaining the status quo preventing us from creating legislation that would more effectively prevent drug abuse, trafficking, and violent crimes?
There is enough evidence at this point that the current legislation does more to marginalize people of color than there is evidence that it prevents drug-related activities. The rule of law was created through a process of analyzing historical evidence. It seems it’s time for a perspective refresh and some new legislation.
Since 1973, twenty-two states, the District of Columbia, and increasing numbers of cities and counties nationwide have decriminalized minor marijuana offenses, and to date, no state that has amended marijuana penalties in this manner has chosen to re-criminalize marijuana possession offenses.
Using 2017 statistics, we understand that this effort to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana would result in an estimated 599,282 (90.8% of drug-related arrests) few arrests per year. Despite making up just 31.5% of the U.S. population, 46.9% of those arrests will be Black or Latino.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, estimated at 2,298,300. This is upheld by our current legislation.
At this point, we have to question the motivation of keeping the current legislation in place.
Tennesse is an influential state, especially among conservatives. Legislators that help decriminalize marijuana in Tennessee will play a vital role in tipping the scale towards decriminalization for the nation. That’s a legacy worth contributing to.
If you want to play a role in dramatically reducing incarceration rates, correcting outdated, racially oppressive policies, and helping clear a path towards more effective drug legislation for Tennesseans, this is certainly the opportunity of a lifetime.
Please, remember that this issue has little to do with drugs and a lot to do with the humans that suffer unjustly due to outdated, oppressive legislation. You have the power to change that.
Be a hero and support SB 256/HB 235.
If you are a Tennessean and want to support SB 256/HB 235, please sign the petition, https://norml.org/action-center/item/tennessee-marijuana-decriminalization-effort
Statistics pulled from The Drug Policy Alliance, http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/10-facts-about-marijuana