Wednesday, June 8, 2016
A recent study by the Drug Policy Alliance found that African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession in California. Shortly after the release of the report, the California NAACP announced its support for Proposition 19, the ballot initiative that, if approved this November, would legalize marijuana in the state. Here are excerpts from CNN.com's report:
Police departments in California have made more than 60,000 marijuana possession arrests in 2008, three times more than in 1990, according to a recent study released by the Drug Policy Alliance an organization that says it promotes policies to end the war on drugs. Although blacks and Latinos make up less than 44 percent of the state's population, together both ethnic groups constitute up to 56 percent of arrests that are made for marijuana possession in California, according to the study. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that African-Americans use marijuana at lower rates than white Americans across the country.
The study said arrests in California are "racially-biased" and have led to a "system-wide phenomenon, occurring in every county and nearly every police department in California, and elsewhere."
Hilary O. Shelton, vice president of advocacy for the NAACP, said these numbers make it a civil rights issue.
"We are usually conservative in terms of the issues that we support, but disproportionate prosecution of [African-Americans for] drug-related offenses for marijuana has called us to fight for decriminalization in our community."
"If the law on drug possession was being enforced correctly, then the number of arrests and prosecutions and prison sentences would be proportionate to our society across the board," Shelton said.
"Sadly, that's not the picture."
But some African-Americans don't think the solution to the problem is to legalize marijuana.
Bishop Ron Allen, an outspoken leader of the International Faith-Based Coalition and member of the NAACP, is outraged by the endorsement.
He, along with 24 other faith- and activist-based organizations held a press conference in California Wednesday, calling for the resignation of Alice Huffman, claiming the California NAACP's endorsement of marijuana legislation is selling out the African-American community.
"If you think you are a civil rights leader, you should know better than anyone not to open the door to laws that will poison our community," Allen said.