The California State Conference of the NAACP was scheduled Tuesday to back Prop. 19, the November ballot initiative that would fully legalize marijuana in California, according to a statement from the Drug Policy Alliance.
“We are joining a growing number of medical professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, local municipalities, and approximately 56% of the public, in saying that it is time to decriminalize the use of marijuana,” said Alice Huffman, president of the NAACP state conference.
She argued that legalizing marijuana — Prop. 19 would allow personal possession of up to one ounce — is not only an issue of decriminalization but one of race:
There is a strong racial component that must be considered when we investigate how the marijuana laws are applied to people of color. The burden has fallen disproportionately on people of color and on young black men in particular. According to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, half of California's marijuana possession arrestees were nonwhite in 1990 and 28% were under age 20. Last year, 62% were nonwhite and 42% were under age 20. Marijuana possession arrests of youth of color rose from about 3,100 in 1990 to about 16,300 in 2008 — an arrest surge 300% greater than the rate of population growth in that group.
The Drug Policy Alliance was scheduled to join the NAACP at the 10 a.m. press conference in Sacramento. The alliance agrees that anti-marijuana prosecutions have disproportionately targeted people of color.