How can Donald Trump really reach black and Latino voters? Promising jobs is a great start. Cutting illegal immigration will help with that.
But none of that really has much emotional impact.
Want to build the movement?
Try this three part plan.
First, announce that a Trump administration will decriminalize marijuana.
Second, announce that every single person serving time for marijuana related offences is going to be pardoned on condition that they spend a three month intensive period in a pre-employment boot camp. And announce that, from the day Trump takes office, any criminal record for marijuana offences will be expunged as of right and right now.
Third, commit serious federal resources to creating paths to employment for the people who have either been in jail or who have had criminal records as a result of pot convictions.
You can picture Trump saying, “Let’s bring our kids, and their fathers, home.”
The last twenty years have been about incarcerating black people and Latinos for all sorts of crimes. Some of that is justified, but a lot of it has been felony marijuana arrests which should have been traffic tickets but got bumped because of priors, plea bargains and three strikes laws. It’s time for that to stop.
People’s children, husbands and wives have been sent to prison for a reason that an increasing number of states think is wrong. Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska have legalized recreational pot and the federal government has gone along. Medical marijuana is legal in many other states. More states have either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana on the ballot in November.
The Donald does not have to say pot is a good thing. In fact, if he is smart he will say it is a bad thing and that he does not want any sensible American to use it; but it should not be a criminal thing because, if it is, there will be a disproportionate impact on black, Latino and poor white communities. That is just a fact.
For Trump to come out for full legalization, full pardons and a serious commitment to reintegrating the real victims of the marijuana prohibition into their communities, will mean the world to the hundreds of thousands of people, black, white, Hispanic whose lives have been destroyed by that prohibition. Will they be grateful? Perhaps. But that is not the reason Trump should announce an end to the marijuana prohibition.
Trump should do it because it is the right thing to do.
Right now Donald Trump has Teddy Roosevelt’s “bully pulpit”. He has the wind in his sails, an opponent who seems to have gone on vacation and an electorate which wants to hear a new message. An inclusive message. A smart message.
Pot seems an odd place to start. It is; but it also is a set of criminal laws which have put the disadvantaged at a greater disadvantage. You do not have to be pro-marijuana to realize that sending people to prison for possession or small scale trafficking is a cure far worse than the disease. If Trump tells that story people will listen.
Cynically, I’d say that if Trump made a speech with my three points about pot he’d win the election. In a landslide. Black people, poor people, hipsters, kids in the suburbs worried about their “permanent record” and police officers fed up with having to enforce laws which long since ceased to make any sense, will climb onboard.
Most of all, the family and friends of the black, white, Latino, poor kids, dads and moms who are sitting in jail will, for the first time, hear a politician actually speak to their pain. They’ll hear a potential President who promises to bring their kids home.
It’s about time.