California NAACP Right to Support Legalized Marijuana Prop 19

Alice Huffman

The war on drugs has been a war on communities of color, plain and simple. Some people realize that it is time to end a war that has devastated so many people, so many families, and has accomplished little to deal with actual drug addiction. A criminal justice model for drug use must give way to a public health model and a regulatory framework.

The California NAACP, with the support of law enforcement professionals, realizes that the state’s battle for legalization of marijuana is part of the war against the war on drugs. And this new war is part of the fight for civil rights. Yes, pot legalization is a civil rights issue.

California NAACP president Alice Huffman is catching a great deal of flack for supporting Proposition 19, the ballot initiative that would legalize, regulate and tax the drug in her state. In an official statement, the California NAACP mentioned a recent study by the Drug Policy Institute that clearly shows marijuana laws are unfairly applied to young African Americans. Although young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than their white counterparts, they are arrested for arrested for marijuana possession at double, triple or even quadruple the rate of whites. In Los Angeles County, blacks are 10 percent of the population, but 30 percent of the weed-related arrests.

“While marijuana has been decriminalized over the years, there are staggering statistics that African Americans in every county of California have conviction rates far and above those of whites. It is time for the War on Drugs to focus on drug lords and cartels,” the NAACP said. “We need to give our young African American citizens a chance at opportunity and not an arrest record that dooms their chances of success. The money spent on these minor drug arrests could be better used on education, health services, and counseling.”

Supporting the NAACP is Neill Franklin, a retired black narcotics cop who now leads Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an international group of pro-legalization cops, judges and prosecutors. These are the people who have been on the frontlines of the war on drugs. And war can leave you weary and disillusioned, particularly when you don’t like what you witnessed in that war. “As a member of the NAACP, and as a former police officer who waged the ‘war on drugs’ for three decades, I can tell you that it is long past time to change our failed marijuana laws,” Franklin said. “Like Alice and the other good folks at the NAACP, I’m tired of seeing young black men and women funneled through the revolving doors of the criminal justice system, all in the name of a ‘war on marijuana’ that actually does nothing to reduce its use.” Franklin also believes that continuing the failed policy of prohibition bears obscene human and fiscal costs, and California voters need to know that.

Franklin and LEAP are standing with Huffman on an important policy issue, but they are also supporting the embattled California NAACP chief against unwarranted attacks from anti-reform groups. First and foremost among the forces out to get Alice Huffman is the conservative black clergy, led by Bishop Ron Allen of the International Faith Based Coalition (IFBC).

The IFBC website raises more questions than it answers about the organization, which purports to represent a coalition of more than 4,100 congregations. That’s quite a claim, and quite unsubstantiated, for that matter. The group describes itself as “an all-denominational, multi-racial, non-partisan non-political coalition of churches, ministries, community-based organizations, governmental agencies, businesses and concerned individuals.” Yet, this “non-partisan, non-political” group lists among its partners the California Republican Party and GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (in fairness it also lists U.S. drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske).

And curiously, IFBC claims the NAACP as a partner, even as it simultaneously urges people on its website not to support the NAACP. “I would like to commend Rev. Ron Allen in his leadership against this evil Prompt 19 [sic],” said Rev. Anthony Evans of the National Black Church Initiative, on the IFBC website. Rev. Evans, by the way, has taken a prominent role against same-sex marriage in Washington. DC., and declared the black church will no longer allow African-American politicians to promote policies (i.e., gay marriage) that hurt the black church. It is uncertain how same-sex marriage will hurt the black church, but oh well.

Of Huffman and “Prompt” 19, Rev. Evans asserted, “The NAACP is becoming an enemy to the Black family… Now they are allowing Ms. Huffman to unleash her unethical practices by supporting drugs that have ravished the African American community over the past 30 years.” He continues: “I am authorizing all of our churches in the West Faith Command not do [sic] give a damn dime to the NAACP and not allow their congregation to be used for any of the NAACP meetings. There is no way that the Black Church will permit this immoral act as it will only further the devastation of the African American community.”

david loveConservative preachers such as Rev. Evans and Bishop Allen are missing the whole point about the war on drugs, or perhaps this is intentional. Has drug addiction destroyed lives? Yes, to be certain, but so, too, have the consumption of alcohol and tobacco – and these substances are not criminalized, but are regulated and treated as health concerns. Detractors insist Alice Huffman and the NAACP are an enemy of black America for supporting the legalization of marijuana. Yet, how can the prohibitionists claim to act in the interests of the black community when they support the perpetuation of a failed drug war that has placed countless black, brown and poor white folk behind bars, wasting their lives away in a cell, separated from their children, with their communities depleted of resources, hollowed out and disenfranchised?

The California NAACP is under fire when it should be applauded for its courage. Alice Huffman is carrying out the mission of her organization, ensuring that it protects civil rights and remains relevant in changing times. Should we expect her to do less?

David A. Love

This article first appeared in The Black Commentator and is republished with permission.

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Comments

  1. John says

    Prohibition is a sickening horror and the ocean of censorship, hypocrisy incompetence, corruption and human wreckage it has left in its wake is almost endless.

    Prohibition has decimated generations and criminalized millions for a behavior which is entwined in human existence, and for what other purpose than to uphold the defunct and corrupt thinking of a minority of misguided, self-righteous Neo-Puritans and degenerate demagogues who wish nothing but unadulterated destruction on the rest of us.

    Based on the unalterable proviso that drug use is essentially an unstoppable and ongoing human behavior which has been with us since the dawn of time, any serious reading on the subject of past attempts at any form of drug prohibition would point most normal thinking people in the direction of sensible regulation.

    By its very nature, prohibition cannot fail but create a vast increase in criminal activity, and rather than preventing society from descending into anarchy, it actually fosters an anarchic business model – the international Drug Trade. Any decisions concerning quality, quantity, distribution and availability are then left in the hands of unregulated, anonymous and ruthless drug dealers, who are interested only in the huge profits involved. Thus, the allure of this reliably and lucrative industry, with it’s enormous income potential that consistently outweighs the risks associated with the illegal operations that such a trade entails, will remain with us until we are collectively forced to admit the obvious.

    There is therefore an irrefutable connection between drug prohibition and the crime, corruption, disease and death it causes. Anybody ‘halfway bright’, and who’s not psychologically challenged, should be capable of understanding that it is not simply the demand for drugs that creates the mayhem, it is our refusal to allow legal businesses to meet that demand. If you are not capable of understanding this connection then maybe you’re using something far stronger than the rest of us. So put away your pipe, lock yourself away in a small room with some tinned soup and water, and try to crawl back into reality A.S.A.P.

    Because Drug cartels will always have an endless supply of ready cash for wages, bribery and equipment, no amount of tax money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safe again. Only an end to prohibition can do that! How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

    If you support the Kool-Aid mass suicide cult of prohibition, and erroneously believe that you can win a war without logic and practical solutions, then prepare yourself for even more death, tortured corpses, corruption, terrorism, sickness, imprisonment, economic tribulation, unemployment and the complete loss of the rule of law.

  2. j davis says

    Sounds like the black clergy are just as self righteous on this issue as right wingers. Typical christian logic and behavior. The laws against cannabis have done much more harm that the plant itself. Just more self righteous posturing like the columnist last week.

  3. Marie R. B. says

    What is a normal family Father Mother Children, not mother (usually) once father or mother comes home he/she begins looking for work, at first they are determined to make this work, but after being told time and time again that because of your record with the judicial system we can not hire you.

    Discouragement sets in and they he/she returns to the people that will hire them at first they are fine with just selling it (remember that drugs becomes a dependency) when something set them off they go back, and it is an on going thing, I believe that it is depression or some other mental disease, do we take the time to check this out no, because that would mean doing the right thing for those who do not have Insurance or even a bed to call their own, it is easy to keep other employed by sending them back to jail. How sad that of all the changes man have learn, the most important one have been left behind, you are your brothers keeper, care a little, discontinue a Law that do not work, and maybe if we took a second look, and try something other than jail prison, we could get rid of drugs once and for all, take away the taboo and you take away the the sales there of!

  4. Marie R. B. says

    The War on drugs have destroyed many of families, yet it do nothing locking these people behind bars, it is another way to farm people to enslave the to a life time of not being able to work because of their penile records. Our Prisons and Jails are full of none violent people who either was caught purchasing drugs or selling it. Why sell it because of not being able to obtain a job. There is something wrong when a person pays for a debt over and over again for the rest of his/her life, not able to work or find a place to live. What’s left but to go back to the thing that you know where at least you will be able to either live with some one or buy food, most live from place to place. Once a person have completed his or her sentence (which is dictated by society) they still have not served their time or payed back what (society states is suppose to be fair) the time it remains with them for live. Fair I think not especially since it do nothing to deter these people from returning to the same things especially since Society. sends them back to that place. though was left behind. Most life int the shadows of living!

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