Press Release: Drug Policy Action and Brave New Films Partner to Release a Hard-Hitting Video Underscoring Urgent Need for Marijuana Legalization in California

Film highlights discriminatory marijuana law enforcement in California & Groundbreaking Criminal Justice Reforms contained in Proposition 64

Drug Policy Action and Brave New Films have teamed up to create a striking video released today that illustrates the stark racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws in California.

The two-minute piece shines a spotlight on how discriminatory marijuana law enforcement is used to criminalize people of color and how the criminal justice and sentencing reforms contained in Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act will “set us on a new path” toward reducing mass incarceration.

“By making this film we hope to give Californians a sense of how truly urgent it is to enact sane, rational drug laws that do not unfairly target and oppress communities of color,” Brave New Films founder Robert Greenwald said. “Clearly, the numbers in this film – and the pages of every newspaper, every day - show that the war on drugs has been not only an abject failure but a force for destruction that must be ended once and for all.”

In November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 64, which contains important sentencing reforms that eliminate or reduce most adult use and cultivation marijuana offenses.

The measure provides hope and opportunity for hundreds of thousands of Californians whose lives has been devastated by a non-violent criminal offense involving a drug that even the President of the United States recently acknowledged is no more harmful or addictive than alcohol. It ends the wasteful of expenditure of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars every year in California on the arrest, prosecution and incarceration of non-violent, marijuana-only offenses.

Proposition 64 also reduces barriers to entry to the legal market, and drives hundreds of millions of dollars in investments to low-income communities that have been most negatively impacted by the drug war.

In 1996 California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana when voters passed the Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215). In 2011, California lawmakers reduced possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use from a misdemeanor to a non-arrestable infraction, similar to a traffic ticket.

However, a recent report by the Drug Policy Alliance found that, despite California’s more permissive marijuana possession laws, the state had nearly 500,000 marijuana arrests between 2006 and 2015. Those arrests disproportionately impacted African-American and Latino Californians.

Black, Latino, and white Californians use and sell marijuana at similar rates, yet black and Latino people are more likely to be arrested or ticketed for a marijuana law violation. Black people were nearly five times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana felonies. Latinos are 35 percent more likely than white people to be arrested for a marijuana offense: 45 percent more likely for a misdemeanor and 26 percent more likely for a felony. Further, marijuana infraction enforcement in Los Angeles and Fresno was nearly four times more severe for Black Californians and 1.5 times more severe for Latino Californians than whites.

“With gripping images and narration, this short film raises up the critical racial and social injustice issues at stake under marijuana legalization in California,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director for Drug Policy Action. “It upholds Brave New Films’ tradition of making hard-hitting films on the most pressing issues in our communities.”

Brave New Films partners with advocacy organizations on strategic campaigns for racial and economic justice, human rights, violence prevention and other issues. Founded by former Hollywood direct Robert Greenwald, the studio uses film to help clarify and draw attention to complex issues, mobilize citizens to act and give them the tools they need to make a difference. BNF’s latest feature-length documentary, Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA has been screened in nearly 1,000 venues around the country including at the U.S. Capitol.

Drug Policy Action, the advocacy and political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, is one of the primary backers of Proposition 64.

Proposition 64 is a consensus measure based on recognized best practices and recommendations from hundreds of engaged citizens and organizations. It includes strong safeguards for children, workers, local governments and small businesses and strict anti-monopoly provisions and the toughest warning label and marketing-to-kids laws in the nation.

It is supported by the California Academy of Preventative Medicine, California Nurses Association and the California Medical Association -- as well as a bipartisan group of federal, state and local elected officials, and an unprecedented coalition including environmental leaders, business owners, small farmers, civil rights groups, public safety experts and social justice advocates.

The video can be viewed here.

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