Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe recently announced he intends to pardon a young man convicted of a marijuana-related felony. The governor emphasized the importance of having a chance to get one’s life back on track following such a conviction, especially for young people. Local press covering the pardon emphasized another aspect to this story: The young man is the governor’s son, Kyle Beebe. Kyle was convicted of “possession with intent to deliver marijuana” in 2003.
In 2012, over 5,700 people were either arrested or cited for marijuana possession. Another 555 people just like Kyle were charged with felonies related to marijuana. Only a fraction will have an opportunity like the one Kyle has. Instead, most will face a lifetime of discrimination: A criminal record that can hurt job prospects, housing, and educational opportunities – long after the court sentence is over.
Arkansas needs a better approach. Like 19 other states, it can remove possible jail time for simple possession, bringing relief to thousands. If you are an Arkansas resident, click here to ask your legislators to support imposing a civil fine — not a criminal conviction — for simple possession.
Even better, Arkansas should implement a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adults who choose a substance that is safer than alcohol — just like Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. Why continue the reefer madness when there is now a better way?