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    New Legislation to Prevent Discrimination in Filling City of Oakland Job Vacancies

    By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember At-Large

    While the Trump Administration’s stance on marijuana is uncertain, the national trend is anything but. California is now one of 8 states that have legalized adult use of marijuana, and is one of 28 states that have legalized it for medical purposes. Growing acceptance of marijuana is certainly good for the economy, and it also has far-reaching social implications.

    Historically, the “war on marijuana” has disproportionately targeted people of color, especially African Americans. For example, in 2015, African American arrests were “down” to 71 percent of all marijuana arrests, but Asian and Latino arrests were up to 6.95 percent and 16.31 percent respectively, as compared to 3.02 percent White arrests. This inequitable treatment goes well beyond the criminal justice system—it can also impede employment, housing, and other opportunities.

    One way of decreasing employment disparities for communities of color and addressing the disproportionate impacts of the war on drugs in those communities is to prohibit employment discrimination based on past non-work-related cannabis use. In light of the passage of Prop 64, I recently authored legislation declaring that past non-work-related cannabis use shall not be considered as grounds for rejection in the selection process for any City of Oakland job, except for positions where such consideration is legally required. The Finance Committee unanimously passed my Resolution, which will go on to full Council.

    It makes no sense to exclude people from employment for engaging in conduct that is widely accepted, permitted, and regulated by the City of Oakland, and which Californians have made clear is no longer a crime. Eliminating this discriminatory practice also ensures we are including all possible qualified applicants for City of Oakland job vacancies.

    In a time where federal policy decisions can feel out of our grasp, and great social injustices are a serious concern, it is right to fight for and celebrate local policies that align with our values. By making sure we have the greatest pool of applicants to fill our jobs, we can better provide public services, while also ending the use of job exclusions that are discriminatory.

    Oakland City Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012, and again in 2016. She is working for safe neighborhoods, for local jobs and for a fresh start for Oakland. Councilmember Kaplan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, obtained a master’s degree from Tufts University and a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School.