Legal Voice announced today that it is endorsing Initiative 502, a ballot measure that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana use for adults in Washington State.
“Passage of I‐502 will help women by addressing marijuana use as a public health matter. Our current laws harm families by putting women behind bars for using drugs, instead of providing much‐needed treatment for women with drug problems,” said Lisa M. Stone, Executive Director of Legal Voice.
“This approach has not made our communities safer; rather, it has increased the number of women who are separated from their children and in some cases must give birth in inhumane conditions. And the impact of current drug policies falls on poor women and women of color disproportionately,” added Stone.
Research shows that largely due to our drug policy, women are the fastest growing prison population. Reducing incarceration of women for drug offenses would reduce the separation of women from their children and families. In Washington, the number of women in prison increased 84% from 1995‐2005, largely as a result of changes to our drug policy. Nationwide, an estimated 85% of women who are incarcerated are mothers, and more than half have children under 18.
Over the past 25 years, state and federal drug laws have led to a dramatic increase in the number of incarcerated women. While drug use by women actually declined from 1986‐1996, the number of women incarcerated in state facilities for drug offenses increased by 888% during that time, compared to a rise of 129% for non‐drug related offenses.
Women’s drug use is often triggered by domestic violence and other trauma. But instead of being treated for the abuse and resulting addiction, women arrested for drug offenses are displaced into the criminal justice system. During incarceration, only one in five women with a history of substance abuse receives treatment for substance abuse; the percentage is even lower (one in eight) in federal prison.
Legal Voice is a women’s rights legal organization that pursues justice for all women and girls in the Northwest through ground‐breaking litigation, legislative advocacy, and educational tools to help individuals understand their legal rights.
Press Release From Allison Holcomb, Campaign Director, New Approach Washington