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Drug policy reform is prison and safety reform

by Wes Messamore, published

What do British rock star Sting, Hungarian billionaire George Soros, and American television personality Montel Williams all have in common? They all believe that the War on Drugs is really a War on People, and that America's record incarceration rates are proof.

In a video recently posted to YouTube by the Drug Policy Alliance, these three celebrities, among others, intone on America's drug war, which results in the massive and costly incarceration of people who did not commit acts of violence or threaten others- a "victimless crime" as it's called.

In addition to being a violation of what Sting calls our "right to sovereignty over one's mind and body" the policy is also an incredible burden on California's desperately unbalanced budget. And to make things worse, the status quo actually breeds and incentivizes violent crime.

If California is serious about reforming its prison system- where costs are spiraling out of control- it has to be willing to reform its drug policy so that we can stop spending money on the incarceration of nonviolent, productive members of society, who simply use cannabis the way a blue collar worker uses a six-pack of beer to unwind after a hard day's work without the threat of incarceration.

If California is serious about keeping its residents safe, its streets clean, and its ghettos free from unscrupulous drug dealers, then it must be willing to reform its drug policy so that legitimate, accountable businesses like gas station and convenient store chains are allowed to drive violent drug dealers out of business by selling cannabis just like they sell nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol- three perfectly legal mind-altering drugs.

If California wants more tax dollars to help fund the expense of keeping its prisons in remote locations away from major cities, then it has to be willing to reform its drug policy to allow a thriving domestic industry to cultivate and sell cannabis, creating new jobs and growing tax revenues for the state.

There is simply no avoiding it. The two issues are inextricably intertwined. Drug reform is prison and safety reform, and no comprehensive plan for prison and safety reform can ignore the urgent necessity for drug policy reform.

Incarcerating non-violent, productive members of society simply makes no sense. If California is serious about getting prison costs under control while making its streets safer, passing the Tax Cannabis Act will be a solid first step in the right direction.

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