The state NAACP is expressing "unconditional support" for the November ballot measure to legalize marijuana, continuing proponents' framing of it as a civil rights issue.
"We are joining a growing number of medical professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, local municipalities, and approximately 56 percent of the public, in saying that it is time to decriminalize the use of marijuana," state NAACP President Alice Huffman said in a news release Monday. "There is a strong racial component that must be considered when we investigate how the marijuana laws are applied to people of color."
The measure, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative 2010, was designated Monday as Proposition 1 9.
The Drug Policy Alliance will join the California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition at a news conference Tuesday morning in Sacramento to release a report, "Targeting Blacks for Marijuana," based on marijuana possession arrests of African Americans in California's 25 largest counties. The alliance says the report shows African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites — at double, triple or even quadruple the rate of whites — even though the U.S. government studies consistently find that young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.
Huffman said data from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice shows half of California's marijuana possession arrestees in 1990 were nonwhite and 28 percent were under age 20, but in 2009, 62 percent were nonwhite and 42 percent were under age 20. Marijuana possession arrests of youth of color rose from about 3,100 in 1990 to about 16,300 in 2008 — a surge about three times greater than that group's population growth, she said.
"We have empirical proof that the application of the marijuana laws has been unfairly applied to our young people of color," Huffman said. "Justice is the quality of being just and fair, and these laws have been neither just nor fair."
San Diego-based nonprofit Californians for Drug Free Youth hosted an event Friday in Universal City so community leaders — including some African Americans — could speak out against the legalization measure.
"I had a good year in 2009; I only buried six youths related to drugs and drug overdoses," said Bishop Ron Allen, president of the International Faith Based Coalition. "If marijuana is legalized in the state of California, crime will increase, murder will increase. If marijuana is legalized in my community, and is legalized in my world, and our youth have an opportunity to be able to use, we will see more dropouts, we will see an increase of crime, and we will see more individuals hanging out on the corner, and I am seriously afraid we will lose generations to come."
Former Los Angeles City Councilman and state Senator Nate Holden said he believes legalization won't stop Mexican drug cartels with big investments in marijuana. "They are here to stay, and they are going to destroy our society if we let them. We are going to fight them and we are not going to let them destroy us."
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