Colorado can do a lot more to make its legal marijuana market more open, transparent and equitable, a coalition of criminal justice reform advocacy groups said in a recent letter outlining regulatory recommendations.
The coalition, led by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), put forward 12 recommendations—ranging from the revocation of an industry-specific vertical integration requirement to the establishment of a micro-licensing program. The proposals were submitted to the state’s Department of Regulatory Affairs.
“Since Colorado became the first state to legally regulate marijuana, the national conversation has shifted from whether we’ll legalize to how we should do it,” Art Way, DPA Colorado state director, said in a press release.
“Colorado can do much more to address the lasting impacts of decades of mass criminalization. Given the current lack of diversity in Colorado’s legal marijuana market, we urgently need to follow the lead of other states and cities that are implementing policies to reduce barriers to entry in the industry.”
While one of the main objectives of cannabis reform has been to resolve the socioeconomic and racial injustices brought about by the war on drugs, excess regulations of Colorado’s legal system has created a new set of barriers—particularly financial—for communities that have been most impacted by prohibitionist policies, the coalition said.
With that said, the coalition is promoting a series of reforms in order to address concerns about “who can work in the industry” and “how the industry itself is regulated.”
Signees on the recommendation letter include DPA, Black Lives Matter 5280, Cannability Foundation, Cannabis Consumers Coalition, Cannabis Global Initiative, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Colorado Latino Forum, Denver NORML, Denver Relief Consulting, kindColorado, Minority Cannabis Business Association, NAACP of CO, MT and WY, Sensible Colorado, Servicios de la Raza and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
You can read the full recommendation letter below.
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See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Advocacy Groups Push Colorado To Make Legal Marijuana Market More Equitable
Every year, about 1,000 students lose some or all of their federal financial aid because they admit to having a conviction for a marijuana or other drug offense. But a Senate bill filed on Friday would change that.
One provision of the bill—which aims to “streamline the financial aid application process” overall—would eliminate a question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) regarding drug convictions. Currently, applicants must answer this question:
“Have you been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans)?”
In some cases, a “yes” response could mean the difference between going on to graduate or dropping out. Low-income students, who might not be able to afford tuition without federal aid, are particularly impacted.
That’s why a growing number of civil rights, drug reform and higher education groups have called for the question to be removed from the FAFSA. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and a coalition of six other senators hope their new bill will achieve that goal.
“We know that when a student completes the federal financial aid form, he or she is more likely to receive aid, attend college, and graduate from college,” Booker said in a press release. “But sadly, less than half of today’s high school students complete the form, and students from underserved backgrounds complete the form at even lower rates than their peers.”
“Our bill would simplify the complicated process in order to reduce barriers to higher learning for students from marginalized populations.”
A similar House bill introduced by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) last year also called for the elimination of the drug conviction eligibility question on the FAFSA.
The “Simplifying Financial Aid for Students Act” would do more than just remove that one question. It would also take steps to simplify the process of determining financial aid eligibility and make the FAFSA available to the young immigrants known as DREAMers, for example.
But the drug conviction question is an important one that’s penalized tens of thousands of students since Congress first enacted the aid ban in 1998. There have been efforts to revise the question so that students don’t automatically lose all of their aid if they self-report a drug conviction, but even a partial loss can derail students on the path to higher education.
“The drug conviction question, which remains on the FAFSA, serves solely as a deterrent to higher education from the students who might benefit from it most: particularly, students of color whose communities have been overpoliced and marginalized by the drug war,” Betty Aldworth, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, told Marijuana Moment.
“We champion any effort to assure students equitable access to education, and look forward to the day when young people who are unlucky enough to be caught using drugs are not punished for the same behavior that half of their peers get away with.”
Initial cosponsors of Booker’s financial aid reform bill are Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Doug Jones (D-AL), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Cory Booker Bill Would Let Students With Drug Convictions Keep Financial Aid
Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash
Millions of disenchanted youths from all over the globe are leading the charge in the battle to reform misapplied Draconian drug policies that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars and an unfathomable number of jobs, homes and families. That the miserable failure of Nixon-era political posturing known as the “War on Drugs” remains nearly unchanged since its inception has only further ignited today’s youth movement to seek meaningful change and start the conversation on how to create national and global cannabis policy reform that no longer criminalizes responsible adults for using marijuana.
This November will bring numerous ballot initiatives to the forefront of America’s voters to determine the course of the medical and recreational marijuana legalization movement and pro-cannabis organizations like NORML and ENCOD – along with scores of progressive youths – are sensing the urgency of getting voters onboard while they still have time.
One such organization shepherding the grassroots drug policy reform movement is called Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). Founded in 1998, SSDP is the only student-led international movement focused on ending the failed war on drugs. With thousands of members spanning hundreds of campuses all over the world, SSDP is one of the largest and most influential authorities raising red flags.
This weekend (April 15-17th, 2016), more than 500 students and allies from over 16 countries will convene in Washington, D.C., to discuss how to end the abysmal failure known as the “War on Drugs”. Afterwards, buses will take students and supporters to demonstrate at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in New York City where world leaders will convene to discuss current international drug policies.
To find out what SSDP and its allies plan to focus on during this weekend’s gathering, I spoke with Sarah Merrigan – a political science major at the University of Nebraska Omaha and chapter founder and member of the student board of directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy:
Sarah, what is the role of young people today in shaping national and global cannabis policies, and why is it important for them to get involved right now?
I think particularly with cannabis reform and with drug policy as a whole, too often policies are implemented and justified in the name of young people. We’re tokenized, but we’re not welcome to come to the table to speak up and make our minds and make our voices heard when these policies are supposed to be protecting us.
It’s important for us to actually be involved and have a seat at the table because if they’re going to be affecting us… then we should be allowed to speak about what we think the best practices are and the future that we want to see because we’re the ones who are going to be around to watch this play out and we’re the ones who are directly impacted by this and are going to be around to see it the longest.
Sarah, along with millions of other marginalized youths, are tired of playing victim to oppressive drug laws that are aimed not to educate, but to incarcerate people for using marijuana and other drugs. Her and SSDPs message is clear- end the war on drugs and create meaningful change by bringing young people together to develop our future. In the “land of the free” where a minor possession charge can easily derail one’s chances at going to college or landing a decent-paying job, it’s no wonder that today’s youths are speaking out and speaking loudly to get their voices heard.