Marijuana Initiative

By Carla Thomas

From left to right: Carla Thomas, Alice Huffman and Larry Aceves.

When NAACP president Alice Huffman came to the realization that the war on drugs is more of an assault on Blacks based on statistics of the Drug Policy Alliance, she took a courageous, yet controversial stand, leading the state NAACP Conference to support Proposition 19, the marijuana initiative.

 “We are not condoning marijuana use by our youth – we are simply working within the system to decriminalize our youth for the simple possession of this non-narcotic drug because the statistics show that these marijuana charges are more an assault on our youth than a war on drugs,” she said.   

Attending a  press conference with Huffman at Oakland’s Marriott Hotel were speakers Actor Danny Glover, Former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Stephen Gutwillig, State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Major Neill Franklin, Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Robert Rooks, Director, Criminal Justice, National NAACP and Richard Lee, President of Oaksterdam University.

A new report by the Drug Policy Alliance highlighting marijuana arrests in 25 major cities in California shows that Blacks are disproportionately arrested at rates 4-12 times higher than whites.  

In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.  In the last 10 years, the arrests were 500,000. In San Diego, Blacks were arrested for marijuana possession at six times the rate of whites.  In Pasadena, Blacks are 11 percent of the population but 49 percent those arrested for marijuana possession.

 “I believe it is our mission to eradicate injustice and continue to fight for civil and social justice, and we must speak out against this war on drugs, a war that is criminalizing our youth and using law enforcement as a tool to impose the Jim Crow justice historically imposed on poor African-Americans,” Huffman said

 “We punish the low-level drug dealers but not the higher up syndicates,” said Major Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

 “We were not solving crime but we were displacing it,” he said. “We now have massive incarceration in institutions with many of them privately owned. We have slept through a revolution where in the United States we have more incarcerated than in the top 35 cities in Europe.  One out of five Black fathers is incarcerated.”