California NAACP Endorses Legalizing Marijuana: Is It Me, or Is Somebody High for Real This Time?

California is seeking to legalize marijuana this November. You knew it was just a matter of time before the signatures were gathered, given the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use passed in the state a few years back. Baby boomer “hippies” turn 65 this year. If anybody is going to get marijuana legalized, the “free love” generation is gonna get it done. But at who’s expense?

The federal government still hasn’t decriminalized marijuana. The state of California still hasn’t quite worked out all the kinks on the prior piece of legislation and with medical marijuana dispensers popping up on every corner faster than liquor stores used to, municipalities were forced to regulate “medical high” treatment.

Conflicts over who really needs it versus who really wants it has marginalized the intended consequences of the legislation with a host of unintended consequences. California is not ready to have the discussion about marijuana being legal for recreational use, but the state’s financial crisis has opened the door—and anything that can be taxed is fair game. Pot included. Prostitution is next (but that’s another article).

What really makes Proposition 19 stranger than fiction is that the state chapter of the NAACP has endorsed the referendum. Since when did legalizing marijuana become a civil rights issue? We know, that for the past few years, the state NAACP has become awfully proficient at endorsing ballot initiatives. Initiatives that coincidentally fund independent expenditure campaigns run by the chapter president’s consulting firm for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Okay, this is America, where opportunity abounds—no laws appear to be broken but the appearance of impropriety of a state chapter civil rights group endorsing initiatives its president is paid to run couldn’t be more clear. But this is way out of bounds for the NAACP. The only one that looks high on this endorsement is the NAACP. Legalize marijuana, for real?

Now I really don’t like criticizing the NAACP because it is where my advocacy was born. It’s sort of like badmouthing the ole neighborhood. It’s hard to talk about where you came from, but sometimes you have to, to get the ole hood to move out of the past into the future. So, I have critiqued them in the past, and will in the future. I recently gave them a pass on an issue that clearly wasn’t a civil rights issue, nor was it a discrimination or hate crime issue. The Hallmark card, so-called “Black Hos” issue (the talking card actually said “black holes, like holes in the universe…), showed really how off base the NAACP (Los Angeles chapter) has gotten in its advocacy.

I can’t give em a second pass. The NAACP tries to be everything to everybody. Legalizing marijuana is not a civil rights issue. But armed with statistics, the President of the California NAACP, Alice Huffman, rationalized the endorsement by suggesting that blacks (black males in particular) are arrested more for weed stops even though they smoke less weed. Well, blacks are stopped more for everything and arrested more for everything.

This is a statewide racial profiling issue: When stopped on violations equivalent to their white counterparts, whites are diverted out of the criminal justice system and blacks are directed (not diverted) into the criminal justice system.

Why doesn’t the California NAACP call out the statewide racial profiling of blacks or black males? That’s a civil rights issue. It’s one of those things that make you go, hmmmm…for real. The statistics don’t lie, but NAACP put emphasis on the wrong aspect. Black men are not going to stop being pulled over, and are not going to stop being arrested because marijuana is legalized.

What will happen instead is that a host of unintended consequences will occur far exceeding those that result from the medicinal use law. Legalized marijuana will be sold to 21-year-olds and allow one ounce to be in their possession. Since the new initiative prohibits smoking while driving, or smoking with children in the car, instead of being stopped for “suspicion” of driving under the influence of alcohol, blacks will be stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. The racial profiling will still continue.

Consumption of alcohol and drugs (and marijuana is a drug—no one refutes that) occurs most where people are poorest, jobless, and most depressed. Has the NAACP calculated what the impact on our (black) community, ours with the highest unemployment, lowest incomes and wealth ratios, and the worst mental health care in the state, will be — just from this perspective alone? Or has Huffman only calculated how much money will be spent on getting the ballot initiative passed?

Will legalized marijuana become the new cigarette where instead of smokers smoking a pack a day, they smoke an ounce a day? Has Huffman been following the robberies and violence tied to the medicinal use outlets? What legalization advocates are not looking at is the access to marijuana. We know liquor stores are gathering spots for illicit crime activity. Will marijuana (head) shops replace liquor stores as the neighborhood blight spot? Where will the tax money go — into the general fund or to help community clinics and people with addictions?

I haven’t raised questions about the effects of weed use and the impact on our children with potheads as parents (and grandparents — that’s scary, isn’t it?). We know people high on pot demonstrate erratic behavior. How do police interpret that? Then there’s still the issue of the federal government considering pot illegal. Seems to me if the NAACP really wanted to be an advocate on this issue, it would lobby federal decriminalization before the state passes its initiative. I’m sorry…the California NAACP missed it on this one.

In conclusion, this legalize pot issue is about money—and not the tax side. I’m sure this state president hasn’t missed that since it is part of what she does as her business. But the NAACP’s place in this debate is highly suspect and badly positioned. The state president is well-positioned, however, which calls her motives for endorsing the initiative into question. Maybe it’s me. But NAACP can’t be so high they can’t see the downside greatly outweighs any contrived upside to legalizing marijuana. I’m jus sayin.

Anthony Asadullah Samad

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Politics. He can be reached at

Republished with permission from The BlackCommentator.


  1. says

    On Pot: During the 80s I did a little sampling on the subject of pot as to whether it is addicting and couldn’t find anyone addicted to pot. Then I did a lot of reading since I had been trained as a drug abuse expert by the Federal Government/Department of Education when I served on a four county Drub Abuse Council that helped provide funding and training for police departments as well as counsel drug abusers. I still couldn’t find any evidence, and I asked my intergovernmental contacts including police to supply the data, that pot is addicting and to this day have still to see any scientific, verifiable evidence. Oh sure, there are anecdotes from people who say, “I know someone who knew someone who had a friend who was addicted to Pot. Or at least they smoked it a lot.”

    Then I began looking into the notion that pot is a starter drug that gets people to use other drugs. What I found is that people who use harder drugs than marijuana often started their drug use with either baby formula or mother’s milk when they were just new born. Later they went to drinking regular milk, eating food, taking penicillin, various vaccines such as for polio and small pox and still later to cigarettes, beer, wine, hard liquor and then on to heroin, cocaine and other substances. Some toked down a bit, but none would say that they began with pot but quite a few said that alcohol got them going and others felt that good sex when they were high got them addicted to hard drugs, go figure. Point: there was no scientific causality but rather when there was a correlation the studies were tainted because the researchers forgot or refused to ask about other possible causative factors such as mother’s milk, cigarettes, jazz music, rock and roll, beer, military service [lot’s Vietnam Vets came home addicted to the big H, with or without pot], … and alcohol. Any decent, thinking, scientific person knows that if you skew the sample, “fix” the questioning, and know what you want to find then you probably will.

  2. concerned citizen says

    Mr. Samad,
    How could you on the one hand recognize that there is pervasive racial stereotyping against blacks who consume marijuana and NOT support this initiative? Huffman provided the statistics to back up her claims that blacks are targeted disproportionately for marijuana “offenses” and that’s not good enough for you? What logical reason could you have to vote no on it, or to encourage others to vote no? To vote no would mean you are in FAVOR of this continued targeting, over something that clearly should never have been considered a crime in the first place, for anyone (but minorities pay a higher price).
    To furthermore shift the focus on federal laws and completely ignore that California’s Proposition 19 could be the VERY thing that gets the whole country on the road to federal legalization (or at least decriminalization) is willful ignorance. The power law enforcement has over not only minorities but EVERYONE regarding this issue CANNOT be ignored. The injustices, for anyone who is paying attention, are EGREGIOUS and un-American. Too many people are incarcerated over the consumption and cultivation of a PLANT — you conveniently ignore this fact at your own peril. I suggest you side with Alice Huffman on this one and vote yes on Proposition 19, if you care at all about humanity.

  3. says

    There is no evidence that marijuana dumbs down anyone. What dumbs people down is getting their head full of supremacist ideas about their color as Malcom X clearly espoused about the antics of White racists. Anyone who gets into thinking they are the color of the promised people are just nuts and drawing at straws. The point of equality is that any Black woman or man is equal to any White man or woman is equal to any Yellow woman or man is equal to any Brown woman or man is equal to any …. man or woman, we are all part of the same genetic code that traces to Africa. Our species, that is you and me, began in Africa and if we are true to science then we understand that we are all part of the diaspora of Africans around the globe. If people would just quit looking for evidence to claim this color is better than that color and start working together to create the best possible world for all of us to live in together then we could move off the dime that we seem stuck to. We could “save the planet”, share the wealth so no tribe, nation, or people has to go hungry, education would be universal and war would become a left over idea of the supremacy of one nation over another. When we create a decent world for all people then killing to “get ahead” or to control others becomes meaningless. On the other hand, a world of artificially created shortages engenders hunger, disease, pestilence, and war with a good measure of jealousy, hatred, and division that opens people up to nationalist [patriotic] manipulation, racial supremacy theories, and gender oppression. If we continue to let the sick theories of hierarchical domination/subordination mold our thinking and actions then the future don’t look very bright. Accept yourself as a human being and then go from there. All of a sudden the whole universe opens up to the ideas of self determination, freedom, justice, and love for your brothers and sisters. And you won’t want them in jail for petty things like marijuana because there is serious work to do and we need all good people to get the work done including those who may toke some weed from time to time. Let’s get about it!

  4. says

    The reason Cannabis was outlawed in the first place was because it was labeled by white racists as being a thing thing that the (insert the N word) did and made them liable to play jazz and dance and do all sorts of such pleasurable and therefore demonic things.

    Making choices about one’s pursuit of happiness is the essential basis of civil rights and transcends race and religion.

    We are a long time removed from the days of Hester Prim but the hypocrisy of anti-pleasure Puritanism is no stranger to certain holier-than-thou segments of the black community who relegate themselves as the exclusive gate-keeping definers of what constitutes a civil right.

    Legalization could conceivably make Cannabis a low cost, and non-deleterious alternative to the expensive and highly destructive drugs that wreck economic and social havoc in the people of color communities. Legalization would stop the industrial prison establishment from using cannabis as a gateway to life in prison drug.

    Keeping people of color (as well as whites) out of prisons for what was originally a race based pursuit of pleasure crime is all about civil rights.

  5. Elaine says

    I am a baby boomer. I am concerned about our history books that have been changed & important figures that have been removed from them. Especially the black heroes that fought along side of George Washington & other Founding Fathers that a lot of people do not even know about. This kind of thing gives the black children their self pride & worth to the beginnings of our country & our Constitution. This shows them that we all are one & all Americans & they had Founding Fathers that worked with all the rest of the Founding Fathers. I believe the legalizing of marijuana will only help to dumb down all of our children & I think that is what is going on in the schools today. I cannot believe the NAACP does not see it in that way. They should be getting the history books corrected & leave the marijuana business alone. I know that most of you hate Glen Beck. But, please, just bear with me for one moment. On his Founders’Friday Show every Friday is where I learned more then I even remember being taught about our Black Founding Fathers & he has worked so hard to get the word out that all of this has been removed from history books & that you cannot stop making the same mistakes of the past if you do not have it available to learn about. Our children are being indoctrinated in our schools without the history to make them proud to be an American & loosing all their history. Please help to get this straightened out. I have a list of some of these books somewhere that I had written down. But I have to find all my notes. I am always loosing notes. But I do know of one book that all should read is A Patriot’s History of the United States by Schweikart & Allen. Google Black Founding Fathers of America Dakota & you will be able to see some of the books that talked about it & a few of the clips telling us about the history we have lost. Our job as adults is to make sure the children get a chance to learn their history. That is what can make you a proud American & we know that if they learn about all of our Founding Fathers they can regain some of the pride that seems to have been taking away from them. They are not going to learn it by being indoctrinated into socialism. Please Just Look! It does not hurt if we can work together on trying to save our country.

    • Lauren says

      The REAL history of America is enough to make you sick, not proud. And it will never, ever be taught in any American school, nor will you ever hear Glenn Beck talk about our real history.
      No, for our REAL history, you will need to get out of this country and visit places like Vietnam, where the dioxin poison we spread all over the country kills and deforms children every day, or to Chile or Argentina, where our US-supported coup-d’etats gave the people decades of horror in a totalitarian (US-supported) government, where people who spoke against said governments turned into “The Disappeared Ones.”

      And these are only the obvious examples of our REAL American history.

  6. ivan says

    This is fatuous reasoning. Of course it is a civil rights issue and your claim of an NAACP staffer’s supposed conflict of interest is utterly a non-issue because that is totally separate from any merits of the legislation. Please inform us of the problem with making an almost completely harmless plant that has grown naturally on Earth for millions of years legal. You can’t expect to be taken seriously tacitly claiming (A): that it is dangerous outside of the ridiculous ‘criminality’ that its deplorably cynical and wrong-headed illegality creates out of whole cloth or (B): that its illegality has any effect whatsoever on its proven safety, worldwide pandemic use and deserved popularity.

  7. Lauren says

    A plant that grows naturally (and abundantly) upon our planet is made illegal, and you think that this is NOT a civil rights issue?
    I’m sitting in my house right now smoking a bowl. I’m committing an illegal act. I’m not black (its not about race), I’m not “erratic,” I’m not driving, around children, nor a danger to myself. I think I’ll put on Dark Side of the Moon after this post and chill out for the rest of my Saturday afternoon.
    To suggest that this issue is about money is only partly true; the real problem lies with making a plant, a natural substance that I could grow in my backyard, illegal. Not to even speak of it’s other uses BESIDES getting high! This IS a civil rights issue, it’s a prohibition issue, a personal freedom issue, and your radical claims that it’s all about the money only point to one fact – it’s about people wanting to MAKE money off of something I could have free access to (if I grow it myself, barring the cost of seeds and growth – its an investment, MY investment).

    “The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.” -Albert Einstein

    “Make the most you can of the Indian hemp seed and sow it everywhere.” -George Washington

    “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.” -Thomas Jefferson

  8. J Davis says

    To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, when I read articles like this I realize that I never left liberalism, liberalism left me.

  9. Bob G says

    I’m not a Black male, so my views aren’t so focussed by that identity. I’m in favor of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana for the same reason I favor decriminalizing the opiate drugs: The criminal system “cure” for a personal choice is worse than the disease itself. It’s actually a lot worse, because those who are truly addicted (to heroine, for example) retain the changes deep in the brain that cause the addictive state. Once they have become truly addicted, they don’t really have the same level of “choice” as the naive user. The problem is that people have access to heroine in spite of the laws against it, some become addicted, and at that point the criminalization process is, on the balance, destructive not only to the addicts but to society as a whole. Those who use marijuana aren’t really addicted in the sense of heroine addiction, but they may choose to use it for a lot of reasons — some alcoholics use it as a substitute that is a lot less damaging both physically and legally,some people use it to counter the unhappiness in their lives, and some people use it just because they like it. The fact is that people can maintain themselves even as heroine addicts by the use of legally prescribed heroine (not here, but in some places, as a recent English study shows) and they are a lot less abnormal and a lot less criminal if they simply feed the addiction rather than fighting it all the time.

    As for the argument over doing things by initiative in California rather than fighting it out at the federal level, I find this to be kind of a non sequitur. As California voters, we have the initiative process available to us, whereas there is no federal initiative process. We might look at this initiative as more like a public opinion poll which will tell the rest of the states and the federal government what they already knew — that lots of people use marijuana, they graduate college and go onto productive careers or getting elected president — and it is time to recognize that putting marijuana users into the criminal justice system is ugly, immoral, and wasteful. Since the Obama administration has signaled a policy of hands off with respect to marijuana enforcement, this initiative is likely to be useful.

    As to whether the Naacp supports, opposes, or stays neutral, that is not for me to say.

    There are a smaller number of people addicted to amphetamines or cocaine derivatives who become dangerous to others and eventually so physically affected that they are in danger of dying. Heart attacks among young cocaine users are a not-uncommon result of its use. An alternative to the criminalization process could be civil committment procedures. This would allow friends and relatives to get an amphetamine user into a therapeutic place (by force of law, but without the criminal process) and thereby get a chance to think about things in a less intoxicated state for a while. It’s not a panacea, but those who argue that the only antidote to the current system is some newly invented perfect plan aren’t offering anything constructive.

  10. says

    I find it very interesting the labels, stereotyping and even racist innuendo in the rebuttals to the commentary I wrote still don’t address the crux of the debate. I can’t be a “real black man” if I don’t support legalizing marijuana. That’s BOTH racist and a stereotype (that all blacks smoke weed and therefore any black that doesn’t is a square or pro-establishment). My advocacy has been counter-cultural for decades, and I’ve been called a lot of things…elitist isn’t one of them. I follow the lead of community folk often disenfranchised in one way or another. The day this commentary was published, the Oscar Grant verdict was announced. I was among those at the courthouse. Waiting for the press conference to start, I asked several community leaders and several community folk about this issue, and they opposed legalization two to one. My own informal polling is consistent with some of the “expert” early polling. So, I am not out of step with MY community. The NAACP is.

    Many arguments can (and will) be constructed to rationalize legalizing marijuana. Not one rebuttal addressed getting to the core of the matter, federally decriminalizing marijuana and the pervasive racial profiling that occurs in the black community. Pot charges were just the easy hits for illegal stops and unwarrented searches on African Americans. The pretense here that this legislation is not about money is hypocritical. My commentary focuses on the NAACP positioning itself in this fight when the chapter president’s motives are in question. I am neither part of the “anti-pot” establishment or a “weed-head” progressive. I could really care less about the issue, if not for the many open-ended questions that go unaddressed in the many ways the exploited will continue to be exploited while so-called progressive liberals find yet another way to get rich. Let’s not hide behind the real issue.

    When this group takes on the federal government on decriminalizing pot and the state on racial profiling, there might be a more rationale basis for this conversation. But complicating the debate around trying to save poor African American males from being “over-arrested” is both disingenuous and grossly misleading.

    I trust this legislation about as much as I trust the motives of those who are pushing it…and that is really the crux of the deabte.

  11. dusty says

    This anti-pot article, while well written, is the typical hogwash shouted out by those who know nothing about pot although they profess to believe in equality and justice. Unintentionally they carry the load for the Man by helping victimize those farther down the social ladder. Unwittingly they make the same mistake as the community leader in the 60s who would say that we must go slow on stopping segregation cause it upsets the segregationist.

    Perhaps they figure they are safe so they reason that the underclass who are victimized by unequal police and judicial treatment can just suffer cause it ‘ain’t no skin off our noses’. In the same attitude folks like these look at the Oscar Grant decision and say, “Well the officer who murdered that young man was found guilty of something and that is progress,” as though a slap on the hand for homicide is enough while a young person from the community arrested for a joint goes to prison.

    It seems that it has been forgotten by many of the young that unequal justice under the law is a civil rights issue. I walked the line in the 50s, 60s, 70s until today against segregation in schools and buses, poll taxes and literacy tests for voting and for equal, just and fair treatment for all — under many banners including the NAACP. Perhaps many younger folk have forgotten that segregation laws were law until the movement forced change. Now drug laws are used, as statistics show, to prey on certain communities and incarcerate some folks unfairly while other folk get to take a walk and that is a civil rights problem. It further victimizes poorer and minority communities by disenfranchising people found guilty of felonies by taking away their voting rights. As a community loses more and more voters it is disadvantaged in the political arena. These are serious civil rights issues.

    The author is correct in pointing out that racial profiling needs to be fought. Perhaps he has even been stopped and he really resents it because he’s paid his dues and deserves to be treated better; but as long as the underclass can be victimized by profiling then he is at risk, too. Justice is not divisible — unless we are all treated justly then justice is denied to all. Racial profiling is a political act carried out to foster fear and loathing — and it is a civil rights issue.

    Just for the record penicillin is a drug, aspirin is a drug, small pox vaccine is a drug, polio vaccine is a drug, and statins are drugs. Pot was used as a drug before any of the above list were even discovered and it’s still being used. Why not make it legal and let people grow their own and get rid of one law that has been abused by the authorities?

  12. j davis says

    This sounds like the same self righteous claptrap we have been hearing from the anti pot crowd for years. I would think progressives would support this move but all I am hearing is more of the same old reefer madness. Lives, both black and white, are being ruined not by pot itself but by the laws against this harmless plant. Same old crap-‘its for the children’ I call bullshit! You have just confirmed my suspicions that so called ‘progressives’ can be just as repressive as their right wing counterparts!

  13. Antonie Churg says

    The marijuana issue is not quite as tangential to the purview of the NAACP as it may seem. The fraction of people of color in prison is substantially larger than in the general population. A substantial proportion of people are incarcerated for possession of marijuana. We are spending too much money incarcerating people for this non-crime. As a white person with no desire to ingest or smoke the stuff, I support legalization of marijuana. There is now scientific evidence that it is medically beneficial. See for example Science News of June 19, 2010:
    There are several forms of cannabis, THC and CBD. The former is psychoactive and the latter has important medical potential, including a specificity for cancerous cells. If cannabis were legal, all varieties would be cultivated, not just the ones that are rich in THC. Legalizing pot is win-win for most of us.

  14. Magnus The Destroyer says

    “Since when did legalizing marijuana become a civil rights issue?”

    Seriously? I mean, this is a serious question? As a black man in America even, you can’t figure this one out?

    Ok, let me help you along:

    It became a civil rights issue when the government enacted drug laws that disproportionately affected minorities in order to reinforce the class structure in our society.

    And guess what? 21 year olds already have access to pot, ounces or pounds, whatever you want. So too for under-21-year-olds. It’s as ubiquitous as alcohol, has been for decades, and despite the increased potency it’s still safer than a 40 from the corner liquor joint.

    The racial profiling issue is specious. As if cops need yet another even remotely valid reason to pull over a black man. They can use any excuse they want, including the “He looked black” excuse. Of course the racial profiling will continue!

    And if you believe that consumption of alcohol and drugs occurs mostly in poor communities, I refer you to Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and a whole host of other Hollywood harlots that regularly make the news with their half-witted hijinks. Enough said.

    And if you think that some people will start smoking an ounce of weed a day then I have to ask: are you high? An ounce right now costs anywhere from $175 (for crappy weed) to $300 (supremo). After legalization, with the taxes that greedy and mendacious lawmakers will add, you’re talking $200-250 per ounce minimum.

    And here’s the kicker: “We know people high on pot demonstrate erratic behavior.” Perhaps you’re confusing pot for some other drug, like PCP or LSD. I can see how easy it is to confuse a green leafy substance rolled in a piece of paper with a white powder or a colorful pill. All the pot heads I know are peaceful, intelligent, and docile when they’re high.

    That I even need to explain this to you is pitiful. What does it say about you? What rock have you been living under? Or do you just masquerade as a black man in daylight hours?

    Dude, seriously, put the bong down and quit frontin’.

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