A Message from Neil Yashinsky
This Passover I ask that you consider observing the holiday by standing against Marijuana prohibition as a modern day equivalent of Slavery in America. As you likely know the Jewish Holiday of Passover celebrates the Jews exodus from Slavery in Egypt. The Haggadah is the text that tells the story of the exodus and serves as the basis for part of the observation of Passover called the Seder. According to the traditional text, “In each and every generation, a person is required to view the story of leaving slavery as his or her own story.” It is in this context that many Jews are taught that none of us is free until all of us are free.
With this in mind many people are compelled to seek out ways to end slavery and other forms of subjugation that represents modern day slavery. Michelle Alexander’s book the New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness explains that the War on Drugs and specifically Marijuana Prohibition was put in place to subjugate blacks, Hispanics and other minority communities. Indeed recent revelations from the Nixon White House confirm that they viewed the war on Drugs as a way to crack down on African Americans, Anti-War activists who Nixon viewed as opponents to be punished.
It is in this context that I believe Jews in Michigan and across the world should work to end Marijuana prohibition. This is not about encouraging or discouraging drug use. Many countries, perhaps Portugal best of all, has shown that criminalization of drugs is counter productive. Even if you think people shouldn’t use Marijuana, I hope we agree that going to prison is much worse.
Indeed the whole notion of Marijuana prohibition hinges on punishment as the way to prevent drug problems. Not only is that not the case, it is wrong headed since prohibition actually serves as a deterrent to seeking treatment since doing so is an admission of a crime. Worse is the disproportionate impact that the Prohibition of Marijuana causes severe harm to communities of color. The most authoritative source for this information is the ACLU’s report titled “The War on Marijuana in Black and White, Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests” To quote the executive summary [link https://www.aclu.org/feature/war-marijuana-black-and-white]:
The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities.
This video[ https://www.aclu.org/feature/war-marijuana-black-and-white#media_listing_1832], explains that despite Blacks and Whites using marijuana at about the same rate (whites do it more), that Blacks are nearly 4 times more likely to be arrested for it. In Iowa Blacks are more than 8 times more likely to be arrested.
So what to do about it? The Woodstock Jewish Congregation Task Force to End the New Jim Crow created [linkhttp://jewishcurrents.org/jewish-study-guide-new-jim-crow-29393] a study guide as a resource to provide a Jewish perspective on Michelle Alexander’s “life-altering book”, The New Jim Crow. It could be an interesting topic for the dinner table after your Seder is over (don’t forget to be a mensch).
If you are already convinced and are ready to take action, in Michigan where I write this we have a grass roots approach to solving the problem via the campaign called MiLegalize [link to the home page: http://www.milegalize.com]. It is designed to [link to http://www.milegalize.com/about_the_initiative] end all criminalization of marijuana, except the sale of marijuana to children. It legalizes all forms of marijuana for adults 21 and older- including topicals, oils, and tinctures, allow for adults to cultivate up to 12 plants. It also creates a ten percent excise tax on recreational marijuana sales that will contribute to state funds for education(40%), transportation (40%)and for local government (20%), the tax will not apply to medical marijuana patients.
Here are 5 things you can do to support the campaign:
(remember in Michigan more than half of people support Marijuana legalization)
1. like the milegalize fb page [https://www.facebook.com/MiLegalize/]
2. Attend the virtual Facebook event observe passover by standing against marijuana prohibition https://www.facebook.com/events/999840743417681/ and invite your friends who you think will be sympathetic to the cause. Share this message with your friends via social media, email and most importantly face to face, ask your family, friends and rabbi or other spiritual leaders about the troubling racial disparities and counter productive aspects of marijuana prohibition and in light of that if we should end Marijuana prohibition
3. You can support the Milegalize campaign financially [link here: https://milegalize.nationbuilder.com/donate]
4. You can sign the petition to put it on the ballot [ link here: http://www.milegalize.com/petition_locations]
5. You can volunteer to support the campaign with your time and skills [ link to http://www.milegalize.com/get_involved ]
The campaign is going strong and just needs a bit of help to ensure the voters of Michigan can decide for themselves whether or not people should go to jail for marijuana related crimes. So please consider taking a stand for social justice this Passover and make your voice heard against racial and ethnic discrimination at this important time of year.
At the bottom of this page hit the Facebook Share button and the Twitter tweet button to help spread the word.
MILegalize Social Media Links:
Thanks for your consideration.
Q. Isn’t marijuana dangerous?
While not totally harmless, compared to alcohol, marijuana is much safer. It cannot cause a toxic overdose, and hurts brains (even young ones) much less than the same exposure of alcohol. It is definitely less harmful than prison.
Q. What has happened in other states that have legalized Marijuana such as Colorado and Washington?
Perhaps most importantly deaths have decreased from drug overdoses where states legalized medical marijuana [link here “ http://www.cbsnews.com/news/medical-marijuana-laws-reduce-prescription-painkiller-deaths/] , and in Colorado highway fatalities were reduced to near historic lows after legalization[ link https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/08/05/since-marijuana-legalization-highway-fatalities-in-colorado-are-at-near-historic-lows/]
Q. Won’t more kids have access to marijuana if it is made legal?
A. ABC News recently reported that while more adults are using marijuana in Colorado, more kids are not [ link:http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/colorado-pot-report-adults-drug-kids-38491102]