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In Furtherance of Justice: The Tangled Web of Marijuana Legalization

By Lisa Dyas March 13, 2018

Rubicon's legal team helps our participants with legal assistance on a wide range of issues to equip them to remove barriers that may stand in their way.

This question and answer series – “In Furtherance of Justice” - with Rubicon's staff attorneys explores the many intersections between the law and breaking the cycle of poverty. This week, we talked with one of Rubicon’s Attorneys, Sarah Williams, about Proposition 64, which legalized Marijuana in the State of California in 2016. 

 

Q: What is the history of marijuana legalization in California?

A: Medical marijuana first became legal back in the 90s in California. As time went on, California essentially decriminalized marijuana–law enforcement no longer was arresting people for using and possessing marijuana. Instead, they wrote tickets. The problem was that even this was pretty unfairly enforced, and it’s no surprise that the people who were predominantly getting ticketed were people of color. As the move toward legalization for recreational use gained traction, there actually was push back – not because many people wanted to see harsher punishments for use, but because they didn’t see a need for formal legislation. In affluent communities people just were not being policed for marijuana use.

 

Q: Was Proposition 64 the first attempt at legalization?

A:  Prop 215 was passed in 1996. It legalized medical marijuana. We were the first state to pass that kind of legislation. In 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger signed legislation reducing possession of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction – decriminalization.  In that same year, we voted on Prop 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana use, but it was voted down.

 

Q: So on January 1, 2018, did it become legal to buy and use marijuana anywhere?

A: On November 9, 2016, the day after California voted on Prop 64, it became legal to possess, use or obtain no more than an ounce of marijuana. The parts of the law that impact setting up dispensaries and legally selling it weren’t figured out until January 1, 2018.

 

Q: Practically, what does this mean for the average person who tries to buy marijuana?

A: It means someone can give it to you, and you can legally possess it no matter where you got it, but you can only legally buy it from a licensed dispensary.  

 

Q: How do you police this?

A: It’s tricky!  The person selling it is guilty of a misdemeanor, even though it is totally legal to obtain and use marijuana recreationally.

 

Q: Does this still put a bigger burden or risk on less affluent communities and communities of color?

A: It does. There are plenty of hurdles to get a license to own a dispensary. If you have a criminal record, it’s pretty much impossible to legally sell the thing that you were cited for selling in the first place. There are many separate conversations happening in California on how to allow people of color and communities who have been selling to actually benefit from this legislation. It’s also challenging because marijuana conglomerates are already forming and taking over the industry.

 

Q: For the average Rubicon participant today, what does this legislation mean? What is the impact going forward?

A: Well, you’re still not legally allowed to just smoke on the street, but it does take away this thing that was hanging over people’s heads. If, for example, someone gets pulled over by the cops and they smell marijuana, that alone is no longer probable cause to search the car. You can’t smoke while you’re driving or drive high – that’s the same as a DUI – but lots of peoples’ cars smell like marijuana. Also, if an officer performs a stop-and-frisk and finds marijuana on you, as long as it’s within the limits of possession, it’s fine.  

This legislation is also very similar to Prop 47 in that if you have a marijuana possession conviction, you can file paperwork with the court and it is not a conviction any more, or if you have a sales conviction you can go back, file paperwork and have it reduced to a misdemeanor. It’s not discretionary, the judge must grant the dismissal or felony reduction, but you do have to file the paperwork. Public Defenders are doing that paperwork for people, and it helps if there is a pendingcriminal case. If you no longer have a felony and you get convicted, your sentencing is going to be different. It can really change things for people.

 

Q: What do you think is the next piece of legislation that will make a huge impact for Rubicon participants?

A: Bail reform. I can’t tell you how many people who have sat here and said to me, “I just pled guilty, or no contest, because I just needed to get out of jail.” Your trial is supposed to happen quickly, but most people “waive time” to give their attorney time to actually prepare for the case, and during that time, if you can’t afford bail, you’re just sitting in jail. Often if you need to get out, you just plead to something. Maybe you didn’t do it, or maybe you know there isn’t enough evidence for conviction, but you do it anyways because you just want to move on with your life.

The problem is that many people don’t realize all of the collateral consequences of having that conviction on their record – in the moment, it’s just about getting out of jail. To me, bail reform is the holy grail of where we’re going with our criminal justice reform in California, because without it, these other laws are just not enough.

Lear more about bail reform or donate today to support our work.

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Tickets Now on Sale for East Bay State of Mind ft. Luvvie Ajayi

By Jonathan Bash January 17, 2018

Community connections are a core part of how Rubicon works to achieve its mission because we know that no one person or organization can break this cycle alone. It takes many collaborators -- our participants, staff, and you. East Bay State of Mind is an opportunity to treat yourself, and your guests, to a fun and inspiring evening in support of Rubicon’s vision of an East Bay without poverty.

BUY TICKETS NOW

Thursday, April 12, 2018
Scottish Rite Center map
Oakland, CA 

6:00pm - Doors open + cocktail hour
6:30pm - Fireside chat with Luvvie // The Power of Social Media for Good
7:30pm - Dinner + Values Awards Ceremony // Keynote by Luvvie; Inspiration by Rubicon
8:45pm - Book signing
9:00pm - After party hosted by Rubicon’s Young Professionals Board

OUR GENEROUS SPONSORS

Corporate Sponsors

 

   ​ 

 

 

Individual Sponsors

Ilana DeBare & Sam Schuchat                Dana DuFrane           Paul Leonard       

Claire Levay-Young                                  Sophia Loh                Ereca MIller & John Shrewsberry           

Karen Norwood                                        Scott L. Poland          Mary Purcell                                             

UPS                                                          Travis Credit Union    Michael Wade        

 

Special Thanks & In-Kind Donors

Black Sands                                             Cream Oakland                  Dashe Cellars

Drake's Brewing Company                      East Brother Beer Co.        Faction Brewery

Fort Point Beer Co.                                 Golden State Warriors        Lagunitas Brewing Company

New Parkway Theater                            Oakland A's                        Oaktown Spice Shop

Old kan Beer                                           Punchdown Cellars            Scribe Winery

Two Mile

 

Corporate Event Partners

Charles Schwab Foundation

​Heffernan Insurance Brokers

First Republic Bank

 

About Our Values Awardees

This year, we're doing something special: celebrating the community leaders who made real change happen, all while demonstrating our core values of hope, humility and justice for all. 

Our first annual Values Awards will be given by Rubicon Programs and our partners, the Asian Prisoners Support Committee and the Safe Return Project, at East Bay State of Mind on April 12, and will spotlight the remarkable advocates who passed A.B. 1008, the "Ban the Box" Fair Chance Hiring Act.

  • All of Us or None
  • Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
  • National Employment Law Project
  • Time for Change Foundation

and​

  • State Legislative Leaders
  • State Senator Bill Dodd
  • State Senator Steve Glazer
  • State Senator Nancy Skinner
  • State Senator Bob Wieckowski
  • Assemblymember Kansen Chu
  • Assemblymember Ron Bonta
  • Assemblymember Kevin McCarty
  • Assemblymember Bill Quirk 
  • Assemblymember Tony Thurmond

About keynote speaker
Luvvie Ajayi

Luvvie Ajayi is a New York Times-bestselling author, speaker and digital strategist who thrives at the intersection of comedy, technology, and activism. A 15-year blogging veteran, she is the voice behind Awesomely Luvvie, a widely-respected humor blog that covers everything pop culture – from TV, movies and technology to travel, race and life’s random adventures. Her first book, I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do Better Manual, was released in September 2016 and became an instant best seller. The book was recently re-released in hardcover with a bonus chapter and is currently being developed into a series for television.

Additionally, Luvvie is a sought-after speaker and her cultural criticism, analysis and expertise have taken her all over the world, from the White House to various corporations and stages around the globe (Haiti, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Barbados and Kenya). She has been a keynote speaker at numerous colleges, conferences, festivals (including SXSW and BlogHer) and at companies such as Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter.

Luvvie is also the executive director of The Red Pump Project, a national nonprofit that raises awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls using red shoes as a symbol of empowerment. She is an avid traveler and her love language is shoes

Sponsorship Opportunities

Sponsorship of East Bay State of Mind connects your business or organization with people who are passionate about creating an equitable East Bay for all. We offer sponsorship packages for both business and individuals. 

View our sponsorship packages:

Corporate Sponsorship >>

Individual Sponsorship >>

Complete your sponsorship online

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Free Tax Services Now Available in Richmond & Antioch!

By Jonathan Bash January 16, 2018

 

TAXES ARE HARD. WE MAKE IT EASY.

Let our experts do the work for you—for free.

You could be eligible for more than $5,000 when you claim both the state and federal Earned Income Tax Credit!

 

Bring Your:

  • Photo ID for each person on your tax return
  • Social Security card or ITIN for each person on your tax return
  • W-2s from all jobs
  • All 1099s, 1098s and any other tax forms
  • Last year’s tax return
  • Child care provider information
  • Landlord’s name, address and phone number for CA Renter’s Credit
  • Your household’s health coverage information (Forms 1095-A, B or C)
  • Savings and checking account and routing numbers for direct deposit

Rubicon Programs, Richmond Office (Starting February 1, 2018)
101 Broadway
Richmond, CA 94804

Office Hours:
Monday-Wednesday 4:00pm-8:00pm
Saturday 9:00am-2:00pm

Drop-Offs Welcome:
Mon-Fri 9:00am-12:00pm

To Make an Appointment:
P: (510) 412-1717
E: kenneths@rubiconprograms.org

Rubicon Programs, Antioch Office (Starting February 5, 2018)
418 W 4th St.
Antioch, CA 94509

Office Hours:
Monday-Wednesday 10:00am-3:00pm
Appointment preferred, but drop-offs are welcome.

To Make an Appointment:
P: (925) 399-8751
E: alf@rubiconprograms.org

Click Here to Download Fliers in English or Español.

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#TogetherWeRise

By Jonathan Bash October 27, 2017


Rubicon Programs transforms East Bay communities by equipping people to break the cycle of poverty. 

We believe that no one service is enough to end intergenerational poverty. People are complicated. They can't be reduced to the least common denominator. 

That's why we provide our participants with three years of coaching and opportunities across four core service areas: income, assets, wellness and connections.
 
First, we help our participants get a job and map a long-term career plan. Then, we show them how to grow their savings, build their credit, set a budget and overcome legal barriers. 
 
But we don't stop with these simple economic solutions. 

Physical and emotional health issues, and limited social networks, also keep people in poverty. That's why we offer tailored wellness services and assistance establishing the community networks necessary to build a career, raise a family, and make positive change.

This holistic, flexible approach allows us to end poverty permanently for more than 1,700 people each year. And we all benefit.

Help us build an East Bay without poverty.

Click here to support others like Mario, Angela and John:

"Thanks to Rubicon, I’ve overcome some serious obstacles. All the workshops – and all the coaches – challenged me and helped me grow, allowing me to use my community connections to get a good job." - Mario

"To look at where I am now is a delightful feeling. I was running from my credit for so long, but now I just want to see it grow." - Angela

"I had headaches and didn’t know why. Now, thanks to Rubicon, I know it's hypertension and I’m able to make it better. Rubicon connected me with everything I needed." - John

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One Walks 500 Miles for Change, the Other Builds Peace at Home

By Jonathan Bash October 5, 2017

Forging Connections and Fostering Wellness in East Contra Costa County

East Contra Costa County is one of the fastest growing communities in California, yet it is greatly under-resourced. According to Contra Costa Health Services, for every $8 dollars in social services available to a low-income person in West County, an East County resident has access to just $1 dollar of those services.

That’s why Rubicon Programs opened an Antioch branch in 2012. In the piece below, we hope to shine a light on poverty in Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood, CA, and amplify two stories of hope in the face of adversity.

 

Sieur, a young man with high hopes and a good sense of direction, has traveled twelve miles each day – by foot – for nearly a month so that he can take advantage of every resource available to him at Rubicon Programs’ office in Antioch, CA.

“I’m the type of person that beats the bus,” he says with a grin.  “It only takes an hour to walk from Pittsburg to Antioch. If you take the bus, it could take even longer. I’d rather be walking than waiting at the stop. It’s exercise after all.”

But his reasoning runs deeper.

Fostering Wellness

“The walk gives me time to think. To have peace. To learn about myself and think through my problems. It makes me feel better because I know I’m getting up and doing something positive.”

This is a skill he learned at Rubicon Programs, where mindfulness is taught as a part of its Wellness curriculum, and every participant gains a new growth mindset.

“Everyone likes to be comfortable. But you can only change when you let yourself be uncomfortable,” he says. “Rubicon taught me to smash my fixed mindset and adopt a growth mindset. Now I know things don’t have to stay the same.”

John, a participant from Pittsburg who has spent a year with Rubicon, echoes the sentiment.

“Over the last twenty years – most of which I was in and out of prison – I’ve had a closed mind,” he says. “When I got in trouble…that was life. When I landed in a gang…that was life.  When I got on drugs and became homeless…that was life.”

John never thought there was another life for him. Then Evelyn, a coach from Rubicon, changed his perspective. “Now, if a door closes, I just wait for the next one to walk through.”

He attributes much of this transformation to the people in his life, both old, new – and returning.

Forging Connections

When John hit rock-bottom, his ex-wife, mother, and daughter cut contact with him. That shook him.

“I woke up one day and realized that I had lost all the people most important to me. My mother became sick from the stress I caused her,” he says. He decided that he had to make change. “I quit drugs and dropped out of the gang that same day.”

After he was released from prison, his probation officer told him about a program that seemed to be working for his clients. “It’s funny looking back. I spent most of my time between prison sentences being homeless out on the river, two blocks away from Rubicon’s office in Antioch. I never knew that everything I needed was right around the corner.”

John went through the program and didn’t miss a day. He grew close to the other men in his Foundations Workshop series and learned networking skills from the connections component. He became good friends again with his mother, father, wife and daughter. “They saw the changes I made. My mom is always telling me how proud of me she is. She knows I’m not going back.”

John finally found peace and productivity in his relationships.

“Oddly enough, the parenting class taught me how to have real relationships with people, not just my daughter. Now I know how to talk to people. How to listen. How to stop, think or walk away before giving in to anger.”

John thrived with this new support network and transformative mindset. Soon enough, Rubicon offered him a transitional job as an Ambassador screening new participants and welcoming guests into the program.

“Out on the streets, it’s not a team game. Here, I learned to work on a team for a shared goal. It was the best thing to ever happen to me. I got to join a group of people with a like mind and a like heart – with a desire to help people.”

Inspired by his coaches’ passion, he hopes to become a drug and alcohol counselor someday. He has already enrolled in college and is working on his accreditation. In time, he would like to start a nonprofit that helps homeless teenagers and runaways. “I want to catch them before they get to the point I got to in life,” he says.

Tying Loose Ends

Both John and Sieur learned the value of connection. But that’s not all that they gained at Rubicon Antioch.

“I had headaches most of my life and didn’t know why. I only got treatment in the ER. Then, Rubicon connected me with health care and a doctor. Now, I know the headaches happen because I have hypertension. I’m able to make it better with a pill. Rubicon connected me with everything I needed.”

Sieur was able to apply for benefits he didn’t know he was eligible for, including CalFresh, the state program that helps pay for groceries.

“I thought Rubicon was just one of those programs where they help you get a job, and that’s it,” Sieur says. “But they do so much more.”

John agrees. “There’s no other place you can go to get a driver’s license, food, clothes, gas, legal assistance, help writing a resume, you name it, and for free,” he says. “This is the place to be if you want to change any – or every – aspect of your life.”

This is Rubicon’s strength. They take everything into account. They believe that it’s the only way to break poverty permanently, especially when society has constructed an environment that fosters it.

Bringing Community into Focus

“It’s how neighborhoods are designed,” John says. “If you go into a poverty-stricken neighborhood, you see a liquor store on every corner and a gun shop on every side. It’s like cities are begging for poverty to turn into crime – which then brings more poverty.”

Sieur also notices that poor regional planning and limited public transportation exasperates poverty for those who live in East Contra Costa County.

“There’s jobs here in Pittsburg and Antioch, but the good jobs are further away,” he says. “You have to drive two hours in traffic to make a good living.”

“I’ve been offered good jobs in Livermore, but I can’t get there. I don’t have a car…yet.”

Sieur has hope though. His Finance Coach has promised to help him apply for a low-interest auto loan once he lands on his feet. Then, maybe, he’ll be able to get off of them.  

“If you stay with Rubicon, you’re going to get the help you need. You just got to stick with it. You gotta make life, don’t let it make you.”

Help us break poverty by donating today.

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