Task Force For Racial Equity In Criminal Justice Recommendations Include Cannabis Decriminalization!

The Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice has released their report (https://ncdoj.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/TRECReportFinal_12132020.pdf) of over 100 recommendations.

Members of the Task Force included a mayor, a district attorney, a judge, a public defender, legislators, law enforcement officers, state leaders, and activists. The group as a whole supported the report,  but not all recommendations won unanimous support. NC NORML advocated for legalizing cannabis resulting in several recommendations that would somewhat ease the oppression of cannabis users. However, we need to convince legislators to support the recommendations because enacting the recommendations will require bipartisan cooperation from all levels of government.

Local governments can make cannabis arrests a low priority for enforcement, but legislative action is required for the rest, including:

  • Decriminalize the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana by making it a civil offense. If a civil penalty is appropriate, alternatives to fines such as community service should be considered to avoid inequity in civil justice debt. Implementation should include robust data collection to measure racial equity.
  • Expunge past convictions for possession of 1.5 ounces or less through an automatic process.
  • Convene a Task Force of stakeholders, free from conflict of interest, to study the pros, cons and options for legalization of possession, cultivation and/or sale, including government and not for profit monopoly options. The study should be guided by a public health, public safety, and racial equity framework.
  • Reclassification of all Class III misdemeanors that do not impact public safety or emergency management as noncriminal/civil infractions, including, but not limited to, sleeping in a public place (local ordinance), taxi fraud (local ordinance), consuming beer in a public place (local ordinance), open container of alcohol violation (local ordinance), begging (local ordinance), failure to provide proof of fare pay (local ordinance), failure to return rental property, and driving with a revoked license. (not impaired revocation).
  • Additional recommendations involve issues before, during and after people’s involvement with the criminal justice system that if enacted will have a positive impact on cannabis users as well as others: police tactics, court fees, sentencing guidelines and the “school-to-prison pipeline” are some of the topics the group discussed.
  • Given the potential for abuse of the criminal process, the Task Force recommends eliminating citizen-initiated criminal charges. Standard in most jurisdictions citizens can’t bring criminal charges.

The Sheriff’s Association released a separate report in October which focused on changing the tactics of policing including everything from traffic stops to protest responses and use-of-force rules. Although some of their recommendations were similar to those made by the Task Force, they were silent on cannabis. https://ncsheriffs.org/wp-content/uploads/NCSA-Report-on-Law-Enforcement-Professionalism-FINAL-10-21-20.pdf

Cannabis legalization is going to require all of us sharing our stories with lawmakers so they understand the human impact of prohibition. 

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