Marijana Legalization Needs to Include Rights For Prisoners

Marijana Legalization Needs to Include Rights For Prisoners

People should be able to profit while others were arrested for the same thing.
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Former Speaker of the House John Boehner announced recently that his stance on Marijuana Legislation “has evolved,” according to a New York Times article available here. This is surprising but great news for liberals and Cannabis enthusiasts alike as it seems there has been a trend in more traditionally conservative or right leaning politicians to be canibus positive. This is important because it is turning a more liberal issue into something more partisan making legalization have a higher chance to pass on the floor statewide or even federally.

A lot of change in right wing stances comes from the fiscal value that the plant can in the amount of money the cannabis industry can bring to a state. States that already have legalized the drug have generated a huge profit from companies sprouting, to the rise of tourism, and even people moving to the states in the interest of their lifestyle.

However, a question brought up by more left wing voters is what happens to the people charged of crimes related to marijuana? In the United States, over half of the drug busts are marijuana related, according to the ACLU, with 8.2 million arrests associated with Marijuana taking place between 2000 and 2010. Of that 8.2 million, 88% were just marijuana possession alone. Not selling. Not trafficking. Simply having marijuana on them. Not to mention a lot of the arrests have severe racial bias. Black Americans are more than three times as likely to be arrested for Marijuana than white americans. According to Drugpolicy.org, of the people who are incarcerated in the prison system for drug offenses, 57 percent are black or latino even though they sell drugs at the same rate as white people.

While there are eight states so far who have chosen to legalize marijuana and twenty-two states that have decriminalized marijuana, there are still thousands of people in prisons for Cannabis related crimes as well as thousands of people who have felonies related to marijuana offenses that stay on their record and prevent them from being able to get jobs that restrict hiring felons.

The issue is that it is very unlikely that a conservative politician who accepts legalization on the stance that it will bring profit to their state will actually consider the impact the War on Drugs has had on it’s citizen, primarily those who are persons of color. It’s important that liberal politicians and voters pay attention to this while pushing for legalization as not doing so is marginalizing and entire group of people who were targets of Cannabis demonization in the first place. You can read about that in this article.

Luckily, California is a state that has taken this into consideration. In November of 2016, they passed Prop. 64 for marijuana legalization and in it they also included rights for those incarcerated on marijuana related crimes to petition for reduced or dismissed convictions. This is a huge step and hopefully other states will follow suite when writing new marijuana legalization laws.

Currently there are a few states that are looking into potential legalization, Illinois being one of them. Ideally, politicians will advocate to include similar rights for the incarcerated. The important thing however, is that politicians know this is important to their citizens so that they can help release those who didn’t deserve to have their lives changed forever by the prison system while some profit from their crime.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Filipino-American Mental Health: It Starts with a Conversation

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When it comes to talking about mental health struggles, I feel like a lot of Filipino-Americans share a similar attitude—sure, it happens, but not with my family. Whether it is because the language is still inaccessible to our communities, or we refuse to approach the topic because of fear, or a little bit of both, a lot of us have yet to really contextualize and express how this particular topic shows up in our daily lives. So you can just imagine how radical it was when a group of Filipino-American health professionals, academics, student leaders, nonprofit leaders and more participated in the first ever National Forum on Filipino American Mental Health held at the Philippine Embassy. On that day, members of our community said yes, mental health struggles absolutely happen, and they are experienced by our families too.

I participated in the forum as an EPYC Ambassador for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). The EPYC Program, in its sophomore year, hopes to empower the next generation of Fil-Am leaders across the country by assisting in the personal and professional development of students and young professionals. As an ambassador for the Capital Region, I was quickly introduced to the scene in the D.C. Metro Area. I made my way from one community event to another, increasing my networks and learning about the resources that I wished I knew when I was younger. But it was, ironically, the topic of mental health that made me very anxious to attend the forum. At the time, I was going through one of the hardest college semesters of my life, and I was afraid to participate in an event dealing directly with this very topic. I woke up that morning with every intention of fading into the background to listen rather than to speak.

But that is not what happened. The hosts made it clear that they wanted to hear what the young people had to say. Jon Melegrito, a local community pioneer known fondly as "Tito Jon" said that that day was about sharing our stories, because we rarely have the opportunity to do so. The room had prominent scholars like Dr. Kevin Nadal (who sat next to me!) and Dr. E.J. Ramos David, but their eyes were focused on us. And so we spoke. We talked about dealing with stigma both inside and outside the community. We talked about the structural barriers (like costs) that make it hard for anybody to get support, regardless of their ethnicity. On the topic of collaboration, I mentioned that it was important for us to address that Filipino-Americans are not a monolith, and that we must always strive to center the most marginalized among us.


Pictured (left to right): Andrew Bartolome, Janis Manalang, Jon Melegrito, Kevin Nadal, and Austin ChavezPhoto by Lia Macadangdang


There was one topic, however, that we kept circling back to: the disconnect between parent and child, between first gen and second gen, between the homeland and the diaspora. I often find these conversations to be very interesting, because as someone who identifies as 1.5 gen (someone who immigrated to this country as a child), I serve as a good example that those conversations are not black-and-white. If there is anything I learned from being pushed into the diaspora it is that this life is very hard. No amount of Filipino resilience can prepare you from dealing with so much loss when you are away from your people. Diaspora asks us to rebuild and re-envision a new life without having much of a blueprint to borrow from. So who should we be? What kind of life should we have? These are some of the broader conversations our communities will need to have for some time.


Quezon City, Philippines. 2003.


And what we are seeing now is that more and more of our people are willing to have them. Recently, Instagram hired Filipino-American student Jazmine Alcon (@pettyofcolor) as an Instagram Ambassador. Alcon uses her platform to create online spaces for youth, specifically Filipinx youth, to talk about mental health issues. Malaka Gharib of NPR has published a heartwarming multimedia piece on Filipino-American Mental Health with the help of Ryann Tanap of AARP. Academics like Nadal and David have been making a name for Filipino-American psychology for some time and still continue to make breakthroughs.

And we should not stop there. We also need to take a look at what Ruby Ibarra is doing, what Bambu DePistola is doing. We must engage with Elaine Castillo and Jose Antonio Vargas. We have to ground ourselves in the work of Dawn Mabalon and Carlos Bulosan who did so much work for our people when they were here. We also have to be humble enough to look at what other communities have done that help paved the way for us. Fil-Ams, especially non-Black Fil-Ams, need to be just as dedicated in reading their bell hooks and Audre Lorde and James Baldwin and Kimberle Crenshaw and Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston, and so much more. Inclusivity, intersectionality, and solidarity should be the heart of our many conversations. Kapwa (connectedness) must not come with any conditions.

As I unpack my own struggles with mental health, I often look back on the day of the forum. I often have to stop myself from feeling like a hypocrite because I was talking about a topic that I have yet to fully resolve on my own. And then I realize that perhaps the bigger problem was that I thought I had to resolve it alone. As I get closer to graduation, I am beginning to understand that I should not beat myself up any longer, because life in the diaspora already does a good job of doing that. What I should do is be more gentle and give more grace for those are the more radical things to do in the face of what we are dealt with. The business of being free is hard work, but to echo Dr. E.J. Ramos David—"it's hard work, because it's the heart's work."

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I Absolutely LOVE The Abortion Bill Oklahoma Has Passed

"Men controlling women"? Get over yourself.

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"A pregnant woman seeking to abort her pregnancy shall be required to provide, in writing, the identity of the father of the fetus to the physician who is to perform or induce the abortion." The bill does include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and when the mother's life is in danger or cases where the father of the fetus has died (and of course, there has to be proof of his death).

A woman HAS TO PROVIDE CONSENT OF THE FATHER in order to abort her pregnancy and I absolutely love this. People in my hometown and state-wide are obviously upset about this because a decent number of them are "pro-choice." They're claiming that this is just another way for "men to control women" and God forbid that gets in the way of their feminist, pro-choice agenda (and I'll address this unfathomable bullshit in a minute).

If you didn't notice already, I'm pro-life. I 100% agree with the bill, even the exceptions. I may be a pro-life Republican, but I'm also a decent human being. I'm sure pro-choice Democrats are either laughing or disgusted thus far, but let me tell you something.

There are other answers compared to killing something that you, or any other woman helped to create. One specifically is adoption. Before you make the cliche argument "Why would I place a child in such a terrible system when I could spare them the agony of a potentially terrible life?" (OR ANYTHING ALONG THOSE LINES), let me shed light on this.

Think of all the couples that desperately want children but have zero ability to have their own. Think about the families that would do anything to raise a child. While you, or any woman, is/are pregnant, there are plenty of adoption agencies that you can visit. You can look through hundreds-of-thousands of files, searching for an amazing family that you like. From there, you can sit through interviews and meet these families that are so. eager. to have a baby. If anything, think of how saddened and desperate Chandler and Monica were when they found out they couldn't have a baby. Instead of ripping away and literally killing a couple's chance of having a baby, give them yours.

A 9-10 month commitment isn't that big of a deal when you think in terms of granting happiness to someone for a LIFETIME. And considering that it's a felony homicide in Oklahoma now.

When you get an abortion, outside of the exceptions listed above, you're selfish. You're only thinking about yourself and the fact that you don't want to be a mom (and perhaps not financially stable--but we shall revisit the adoption topic). Well guess what? Someone is. Give them that chance. And if you're thinking I'm a hypocrite and wouldn't follow through with adopting a baby like I'm preaching right now, you're wrong. I would 100% adopt.

As for "men controlling women," get over yourself. Feminists rant about gender equality all the time and guess what? Think of how many women kept their babies even though their boyfriends, baby daddies, and maybe even fiances and husbands didn't want one. This is the same thing, but a gender reverse. I can think of many guys that wanted to be dads, but their girlfriends decided otherwise with no remorse for their feelings. If the father wants to keep the baby and be a dad, he deserves to fight for it.

It takes two to make a baby. The fathers of these unborn rays of sunshine deserve rights and, in Oklahoma, they just got it. You ladies want gender equality? You just got it. Quit the double standards. Quit your bitching.

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