Last week, a national coalition of Black and Brown women and mothers penned an open letter to President Joe Biden demanding an end to the war on drugs.
The letter was prompted in learning breaking news that POTUS pardoned thousands of people convicted of marijuana charges. Given its recent legalization in several states across the country, the Biden administration is exploring whether marijuana should be in the same legal category as drugs like heroin and LSD.
According to the New York Times:
The pardons will clear everyone convicted on federal charges of simple possession since it became a crime in the 1970s. Officials said full data was not available but noted that about 6,500 people were convicted of simple possession between 1992 and 2021, not counting legal permanent residents. The pardons will also affect people who were convicted under District of Columbia drug laws; officials estimated that number to be in the thousands.
The pardons will not apply to people convicted of selling or distributing marijuana. And officials said there are no people now serving time in federal prisons solely for marijuana possession. But the move will help remove obstacles for people trying to get a job, find housing, apply to college or get federal benefits.
The coalition of women take issue with the “exception” clause in Biden’s proclamation that prohibits the pardoning of people convicted of selling or distributing marijuana. The coalition states:
“We demand sweeping changes, not just in regard to federal marijuana convictions, but to the entire set of laws that comprise the War on Drugs and that have led to mass incarceration in the United States.”
BIPOC women pen letter to Biden demanding end to War on Drugs
Further, the federal government should pay reparations to the people and families affected by the War on Drugs. According to the ACLU, Black women are more than three times as likely as white women to be incarcerated, and Latinas are 69% more likely to be incarcerated than white women. A disproportionate number of these women are low income and mothers of children under age 18.
They’ve also requested that the federal government push for state and national repeal and dismantling of all foundational legislation perpetuating criminalization. They’re specifically calling on the Congressional Black Caucus to play a more dominant and outspoken role in eradicating mandatory minimums and the sentencing guidelines in drug cases, egregious statutory differentials in sentencing for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine, loss of discretion of federal sentencing judges, and draconian drug conspiracy laws used by prosecutors to disproportionately to punish low income people of color, often outside of the court’s purview.
Letter calls out Biden’s lead role in 1996 Crime Bill
Chauntyll Allen – one of the authors of the letter and the Director of Criminal Justice Policy and Advocacy with Wayfinder Foundation – declared, “Your decisions represent a necessary – and long overdue – change that will affect thousands of people who were convicted under federal drug laws (and rules governing the District of Columbia). However, as one of the architects of the 1994 Crime Bill, you are likely aware that there are millions more people who are trapped under the crushing weight of other federal and state laws that use drugs as an excuse to criminalize poverty and mental health.”
As a victim and survivor of the War on Drugs, Kemba Brown joined the chorus of voices calling for a complete end to drug related mass incarceration. Brown was a student at Hampton University and in an abusive relationship with a drug dealer and an unknowing casualty in his takedown.
She said, “Even though I became the ‘Poster Child’ for federal drug sentencing gone wrong in the 1990s, and was granted executive clemency by President Clinton in December, 2000, there are still many other incarcerated women of color, like my friend Michelle West, who are waiting on their opportunity to live lives that would overshadow who they used to be, if given the opportunity. Clemency is her only hope.”
The War on Drugs began in the early 1970s. It targeted and had a devastating effect on Black, Brown and poor communities.
The policies lasted through the Nixon, Reagan, G.W. Bush and Clinton administrations with backing from the Congressional Black Caucus. As a result, incarceration rates and drug abuse soared rapidly, Black and Brown families were dismantled and their communities were destroyed.
This content was originally published here.