The California chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has endorsed Proposition 19, a ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana use, CNN reported July 7.
Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, termed legalization a civil-rights issue. “We have empirical proof that the application of the marijuana laws has been unfairly applied to our young people of color,” she said. “Justice is the quality of being just and fair and these laws have been neither just nor fair.”
Data show that blacks and Latinos are disproportionately subject to arrest for marijuana offenses in California, even though African-Americans are less likely to smoke marijuana than whites.
“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,” said Hilary O. Shelton, vice president of advocacy for the NAACP.
However, some NAACP members strongly opposed the endorsement. “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,” said Ron Allen of the International Faith-Based Coalition. “We agree that the disproportionate arrests should change, but legalizing marijuana is not the way. What it will create is for more incarceration, more drug babies, and more crime on the street. This is not a civil-rights issue.”