Legal Pot Is a Civil Liberty

Legal Pot Is a Civil Liberty
File photo by Gustavo Turner/L.A. Weekly

The American Civil Liberties Union, aka the ACLU, is here to fight for your rights.

Smoking weed is apparently one of them. Amen.

Backers of an initiative headed for the November ballot that would legalize recreational marijuana announced today that the ACLU of California is in their corner.


The organization argues that marijuana prohibition has been used to criminalize minorities in the Golden State.

Indeed, 70 percent of all California marijuana arrests in 2014 involved people of color, say the folks behind the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which would legalize it for those 21 and older. They said their stats were based on California Department of Justice data.

People under the age of 20 accounted for 73 percent of misdemeanor marijuana arrests. (Sorry, but AUMA probably wouldn't help much there.)

"The disastrous war on marijuana in California continues to ensnare thousands of people — particularly young people of color — in the criminal justice system every year," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, ACLU's criminal justice and drug policy director.

The ACLU was a key player on a blue ribbon commission, convened by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, that led to the birth of AUMA. 

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The initiative, if you approve it, will allow us to have up to an ounce of weed at a time. It would tax and regulate pot like alcohol.

Other backers include the the California NAACP, national NORML and the Drug Police Alliance.

"It is time to move from prohibition to regulation," said the ACLU's Dooley-Sammuli. "AUMA will establish a controlled and regulated market for adults, significantly reduce the harm done to young people under current marijuana laws, and generate substantial revenue for drug education and for the communities most devastated by the war on drugs."

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