Friday, January 31, 2014

An Open Letter to the 12 Brave Democrats Backing HB2474 (The Harm Reduction Measure)

Dear Sponsors of HB2474:
Thank You again for your courage in supporting the rights of Arizonans and taking the first steps to ending felony sentencing for cannabis possession in AZ by introducing HB2474
Congratulations on your bill being assigned to committee today, 1/30/14. Call it “Impossible Victory” #4: “it’ll never get a sponsor; they’ll never find other sponsors; it’ll never get introduced; it’ll never get a committee.” At Safer AZ, we realize the magnitude of the challenge and offer these talking points to support the bill.  Here are some general areas of argument and specific quotes that might be useful.
1)      Felony Sentencing is out of touch w the times: AZ has the strictest marijuana sentencing in the west and it doesn’t reduce arrests or usage rates. Our neighbor Colorado does not even consider possession a crime anymore and legalization is on the way. “Who is going to be the last man arrested for an outdated law?”
2)      The Felony Sentencing Adjudication Process is a waste of resources and a drag on the system: Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice & Corrections all must invest time and resources processing cases that for the most part bargain down to misdemeanor sentences. “Here is a responsible way to save tax payers money and misery.”
3)      Felony Drug Arrests Destroy Lives: Eighteen thousand Arizonans are arrests each year on cannabis related charges and while the TASC (diversion) program keeps the vast majority out of prison, the felony arrest record still impacts: employment, educational and public assistance opportunities, parenting/gun ownership/voting rights and military service eligibility. “Why do we want to punish a kid for the rest of his life for a simple youthful mistake?”
4)      Undue felony sentencing creates a depressed Arizona economy: Due to the number of “Marginally Employable Felons” enforcement creates, existing statute diminishes the earning power of thousands of Arizonans annually, reducing revenues and increasing demand for public assistance. “Ruining these citizens’ earning power is like dooming them to public assistance.”
5)      Current Felony Sentencing Policy is part of the flawed Legacy of Evan Mecham: In 1988, when he was trying to distract the public from corruption accusations against him, Mecham called for stricter statutes. “It didn’t work for him and it doesn’t work for us.”
6)      The threat of felony arrest puts undue hardship on MMJ patients: Many medical marijuana patients are simply sick people trying their best to obey the law and survive catastrophic illness. “Aren’t these people already suffering enough? Why threaten them w jail-time just for trying to stay alive?”

Just as we rallied phone calls to the Speaker’s office to help this get to committee, we can provide witnesses (experts, patients, criminal” justice” victims, etc). Give us a chance to help.

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