Small Steps Toward Justice

Written by: 
Rebecca Lau

In September, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1793, Cannabis convictions: resentencing. The bill amends Prop 64 (2016), the Adult Use of Marijuana Act and requires the state to erase or reduce prior sentences for marijuana possession. Assemblymember Rob Bonta, who sponsored the bill, stated “Long after paying their debt to society, people shouldn’t continue to face the collateral consequences, like being denied a job or housing, because they have an outdated conviction on their record.” AB 1793 lets people who committed victimless crimes move on with their lives.

None of this could have happened without the passage of Prop 64. Libertarians have long been against the drug war, so it might surprise you that the executive committee of the Libertarian Party of California unanimously endorsed No on Prop 64.

I personally had voted yes on Prop 64 and when I heard AB 1793 had a chance of being passed, I reached out to members of the state party to hear why they voted no.

I heard a range of answers including: “It wasn’t a well written law,” “Too many regulations,” “Taxes too high.” One person even said they only purchased black market marijuana to protest Prop 64.

As a libertarian I usually vote No on all ballot measures. Most propositions aren’t well written and some of them shouldn’t even be on the ballot in the first place. It’s expensive to gather signatures to get a proposition on the ballot, so they’re all funded by “special interests.” Even if you agree with the proposition in principle, there are good reasons to vote No.

Prop 64 was a special case where I had to vote yes. If voters waited for a better written law, it would have taken years for one to appear on the ballot and many more people would be in jail or stuck with marijuana convictions. Justice for victims and future victims of the drug war far outweigh the negatives of regulations and taxation.

Proponents of Prop 64 wanted to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Just think about all the laws regarding alcohol today: You have to be a certain age. You can only buy it at certain times of the day. You must purchase a very expensive and limited license in order to sell it. There are limits to how much alcohol a drink can contain. Some states control sales through state owned liquor stores. There are even “dry” counties where alcohol is completely prohibited. Despite all the laws regulating alcohol, I have never heard of someone wishing to go back to Prohibition.

Voting Yes on Prop 64 was the moral thing to do. Prop 64 reduced penalties for just about every marijuana-related crime and arrests are way, way down. Now with the passage of AB 1793, even more people will benefit from having their convictions wiped away. It’s unrealistic to think there will ever be a law that will reach the standards of some too-principled members of the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian should have put aside their distaste or regulations and taxation in support of justice.

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