Black Lives Matter Organizers Call for Marijuana Decriminalization


Activists leading the fight to stop the killing of African Americans by police officers unveiled a series of policy proposals on Friday aimed at converting the attention the Black Lives Matter movement has generated into fundamental reforms that could transform the way law enforcement interacts with the communities it is charged with serving and protecting.

Included among the recommendations from the new effort, Campaign ZERO, is the federal and state decriminalization of marijuana. Specifically, the group is endorsing a bill in Congress, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015. The legislation, sponsored by California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, would amend the Controlled Substances Act so that its penalties wouldn’t apply to anyone acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.

The recommendation, under the site’s section on ending “Broken Windows” policing, is displayed alongside a cannabis leaf icon:

Campaign ZERO proposals

The campaign’s slightly more detailed Federal Policy Agenda urges Congress to “pass legislation…to end federal marijuana prohibition or end DEA enforcement of this prohibition.” The group also wants states and municipalities to change marijuana policies and deprioritize enforcement of existing laws against the use of cannabis.

The new criminal justice reform push, launched by prominent Black Lives Matter activists Samuel Sinyangwe, Brittany Packnett, DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie, is intended to provide concrete policy changes that the activists believe will reduce the number of police encounters that turn deadly.

Beyond the marijuana reform recommendations, proposals on the site include the expanded use of police body cameras, ending the use of asset forfeiture against people who haven’t been convicted of crimes and restricting the use of military-style equipment by local police departments.

According to data compiled by the activists, more than 1,000 people are killed by police in the U.S. every year, and so far there have only been nine individual days in 2015 on which there were no reported incidents of a law enforcement officer killing someone.

A series of police killings of unarmed black men — Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Walter Scott, to name a few — has brought the issue of racial justice to the forefront of American political discourse, forcing some presidential candidates to stake out pro-reform positions. Campaign ZERO hopes that the new effort will encourage the candidates to sign on to specific proposals such as the ones listed on the new site.

Learn more about the group’s comprehensive police reform push here.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for

Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens).

Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

(All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


  1. Some of these small infractions shouldn’t cost other wise good people jail time, but I don’t think it’s discrimination. This whole black lives matter thing is getting very hurtful to other races (me/white). Doesn’t my life matter just as much, or does my life not matter to them? I have children, parents, siblings, and a boyfriend who all love me and believe my life matters, why don’t they. I believe that this movement is an attempt to bring attention to everything wrong, but only for their benefit. Taking the mike away and pushing a presidential candidate, rioting, looting, starting fires and cutting fire hoses so the fires couldn’t be put out, and only counting themselves as lives that matter. When a black cop has to shoot a white person we never hear about that, and when a white man gets attacked for asking about Michael Brown. The white man was waiting for public transportation when he asked a black man his question, and the black man began to beat him. Two other black men came along and instead of stopping the fight and helping the white man they began to beat him also. That story got 5 minutes on CNN, but all of the bad behavior by thugs rioting and attacking police officers gets national attention. It was a black protester who shot a white cop in the face and only his face shield saved him. Isn’t that racism?

    When the Confederate flag was taken down I was so sad. One group of people holding a 300 year old grudge took away a symbol of pride for southerners. Everybody hold your breath because now any symbol of any group, organization, or church must be on high alert. If a certain group offend others you may lose your right to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion. I’m scared, and you should be too.

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