Rolling Out

Jon Ossoff discusses criminal justice reform and nationwide legalization of marijuana

Jon Ossoff discusses criminal justice reform and nationwide legalization of marijuana
Daniel Prude sitting in the street surrounded by Rochester cops (Image source: Rochester Police Department bodycam footage obtained by obtained by News 8 WROC)

With less than three weeks until the Jan. 5, 2021 election, rolling out’s Editor-at-Large, Rashad Richey, talks with Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff about police brutality and nationwide legalization of marijuana. This discussion is part of an exclusive series that delves into what’s at stake in Georgia’s runoff races for U.S. Senate.

Rashad Richey: Let’s talk about what changed a lot of minds in the United States — the murder of George Floyd. For years, many, including yourself, talked about and protested the reality of police misconduct. What policies would you support to create a more balanced approach as it relates to community and law enforcement?

Jon Ossoff: We have to rebuild trust between communities and law enforcement by holding law enforcement to high standards and ensuring there’s accountability where there is brutality or racial profiling. And the knee on George Floyd’s neck was not an isolated incident. It was a systemic incident, a daily incident.

When we pass a new Civil Rights Act establishing national standards for the use of force and impose real accountability for police brutality and racial profiling, we will look back at last summer’s peaceful mobilization, after George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor were murdered, as our generation’s march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama 1965.

The courage of John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton and hundreds who marched across that bridge, paved the way for passage of the Voting Rights Act because they awakened the public to the depth of injustice unfolding in America. When we pass a new Civil Rights Act and a new Voting Rights Act next year, we’ll look back on the summer of 2020 as the moment the tide shifted, and the will emerged to make real progress.

As a professor Jon, I had a student who reminded me a lot of me. He came from a similar part of the community. He was doing quite well in my class. In the middle of the semester, he received a financial aid rejection letter. He was only 18, never had financial aid before and was not a felon. We didn’t understand. I did some research and found out it was because of a marijuana conviction when he was 17. That conviction eliminates his opportunity to ever get financial aid under the current rules. What are your thoughts about full decriminalization of marijuana throughout the country?

I’m not just for decriminalization. I’m for full legalization of marijuana nationwide and the expungement of all records for nonviolent cannabis-related offenses. You know, the same politicians who take millions and millions from drug companies that produce highly addictive opiates that have ravaged this country; the same politicians who take millions from the alcoholic beverages industry, where alcohol is more destructive to the human body and mind than cannabis, and to lock up young Black and Brown people and destroy their opportunities for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses — cannabis should be legalized, regulated and taxed.

Early voting is underway for the Jan. 5 runoff races. Find your polling location on My Voter Page.

By Karen Araiza
Karen Araiza’s award-winning work as a journalist includes a National Emmy for work on struggles facing law enforcement and a National Murrow Award for documentary and storytelling on the opioid crisis.”

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