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African-Americans Could Be Swing Vote For California's Marijuana Legalization Initiative

As we've told you, that November vote in California over the full legalization of marijuana looks like it's going to be a close one: The most recent poll has Prop. 18, which would allow people 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of pot, medical or not, going down 48 percent to 44 percent.

The New York Times on Monday suggests the issue's most potent swing vote could come from African-Americans:

How black voters in California decide on Proposition 19, which would allow anyone over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, could be critical to its success or failure ... In the case of Proposition 19 -- which is trailing narrowly in a recent Field Poll -- appeals to that potential swing bloc have already begun, and the measure's backers have been seeking out the support of prominent black leaders.

The Times cites a Drug Policy Alliance report, outlined previously in the Weekly, which states that blacks in California are many times more likely to be arrested for pot-related offenses than whites. In L.A. County African-Americans are more than four times as likely to get pinched.

Proponents of Prop. 19, then, are wooing the black vote by calling the legalization of marijuana a civil rights issue. But not all African-Americans are drawing on this notion: The Times notes that some black church leaders are campaigning against the measure.