The push to legalize marijuana in California has borne witness to a bevy of strange sleeping arrangements. Medical marijuana dispensaries are now bedfellows with unions; retired law enforcement officers have linked arms with longhairs; and Democrats like Sen. Barbara Boxer have ditched their progressive stances on personal freedom in order to appear tough on crime, even as one of Boxer’s own staffers was arrested on Capitol Hill for possessing weed.
As the days tick down to a vote on Prop. 19, yet another coalition of drug reformers has stepped forward with a new angle. The reformers are mothers, and their rallying cry is “do it for the children.”
On Tuesday, a contingent of California moms outlined the parental case for legalizing marijuana. During a press conference early in the day and a later conference call with reporters outside of California, the marijuana moms argued that it is in every child’s best interest for California to legalize the very same drug that schools and parents have religiously dogged since before the creation of first lady Nancy Reagan’s “Drug Abuse Resistance Education” program in the 1980s.
“It might be counterintuitive,” said Hanna Dershowitz, an attorney and mother of two, ages seven and five. “I have the conversation [with my kids] every day about how much sugar is appropriate,” she said. “The right thing is to have a reasonable conversation in the context of controlled, regulated marijuana.”
A member of the Women’s Marijuana Party, Dershowitz was one of several mothers who said during a conference call with reporters that the state’s punitive reactions to drug possession are not only drastic, but also anti-parent and anti-family.
“I am the mother of two sons, both are in their 30s, but once a mom, you’re always advocating for your children and your children’s children,” said Gretchen Burns Bergman, a substance abuse counselor who helps families overcome addiction. In 1990, Bergman’s oldest son was arrested for marijuana possession. That charge, she wrote on the Huffington Post, “led to a decade of cycling in and out of the prison system for non-violent, low-level drug possession charges.”
It’s first-hand experience with the horrors of incarceration that sold Bergman on the need to change California’s drug laws. “Mothers are leading the charge, just as during the 30s,” she said. “Not because we love drugs and alcohol, but because we love our children and we cannot stand the costs of our punitive policies. The money raised through taxation could be spent on prevention, harm reduction, [and] education.”
The Rev. Canon Mary Moreno Richardson of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral also participated in the call. “A lot of people look at this and say, this is a stoner law,” Richardson said. “As people of faith we are called to be instruments of faith. We are also called to be just, wise, and kind.”
Several other religious organizations in California have signaled their support for Prop 19, including the California Council of Churches, the Interfaith Drug Policy Alliance, and Clergy Against Prohibition.
The only Hispanic mother on the call, Richardson said that she had seen more families in the Latin American community destroyed by alcohol than by weed. Richardson recalled administering domestic abuse counseling to a group of Latino men, and asking if any of them had been under the influence of marijuana when they attacked their partners. “They looked at me like I was crazy,” Richardson told reporters. “People don’t fight when they’re stoned. When I asked if alcohol was involved, 14 out of 15 hands would go up.”
Every mother on the call rebutted the claim that marijuana is a gateway drug to dangerous substances, but none more passionately than Richardson. “I believe it’s the gateway drug to the criminal justice system,” she said. “[Prop. 19] may be a radical law to a lot of people, but I believe in radical justice right now, because I believe in a radical God.”