Statement on Racial Equity and Cannabis Legalization
James Jimenez, Executive Director, NMVC Action Fund
March 14, 2021
After close to five decades, the War on Drugs has failed our country, our state, and our families. The prohibition of cannabis is among the laws that have consistently impacted people of color disproportionately, who experience almost four times the rate of arrests compared to white Americans, despite equal rates of usage.
The War on Drugs has devastated families and entire neighborhoods and has never been pursued with equal justice under the law for all Americans.
At some point, New Mexico will legalize cannabis. And when it does, NMVC Action Fund believes that the legalization legislation must correct for past harms caused by cannabis prohibition. Without these equity provisions, cannabis legalization should not be enacted.
We strongly support the following equity provisions and believe that any cannabis legalization bill must include:
Public health provisions that prevent a minor’s access to and use of cannabis, including: investing in public education on the harms of use for minors; educating adults on responsible use and storage; and, limiting advertising and marketing, including restrictions on packaging.
Provisions eliminating barriers to access to public benefits (e.g. nutrition assistance, public housing, etc.) such as drug testing to determine eligibility, and other collateral consequences related to an individual’s cannabis use or previous arrest or conviction.
Provisions restricting cannabis use as a reason for separating children from their families in the child protective system.
Criminal justice reform provisions (e.g. automatic expungement, resentencing, sensible penalties for conduct not allowed under the new law).
The direction of a portion of the state’s cannabis revenue into communities most harmed by unfair enforcement of cannabis laws, especially for individuals with systemic and structural barriers to employment or living in high-poverty communities.
Provisions creating equity in the new cannabis marketplace, including: allowing individuals with prior convictions to work in the new industry and receive licenses to work in the new industry; and, requiring the state to create a social and economic plan to encourage diversity in licensing.
Cannabis legalization must correct for these past abuses and we urge lawmakers to ensure that equity provisions are a part of any cannabis legislation under consideration.