The history of marijuana prohibition in this country is, at its core, racist. Since its inception almost a century ago as a way to punish Mexican immigrants, our marijuana laws have effectively been enforced in ways that disproportionately hurt minorities. Even though whites make up the vast bulk of marijuana users in this country, the majority of those arrested for marijuana offenses are African American and Latino.
This is why I encourage everyone to read President of the California State NAACP Alice Huffman’s editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle in support of ending marijuana prohibition in California, and specifically in support of Proposition 19. Here is a small sample:
We reject the oft-repeated but deceptive argument that there are only two choices for dealing with drugs – heavy-handed law enforcement or total permissiveness. Substance abuse and addiction are American problems that impact every socioeconomic group, and meaningful public health and safety strategies are needed to address it. However, law enforcement strategies that target poor blacks and Latinos and cause them to bear the burden and shame of arrest, prosecution and conviction for marijuana offenses must stop.
. . . .
Enough is enough. We want change we can believe in, and that’s why we’re supporting Prop. 19. Instead of wasting money on marijuana law enforcement, Prop. 19 will generate tax revenues we can use to improve the education and employment outcomes of our youth. Our youth want and deserve a future. Let’s invest in people, not prisons.
I had the pleasure of hearing Huffman speak at this year’s NORML convention. She was an impressive spokeswoman for reform who was drawn to openly support legalization after hearing a solid, logical and persuasive argument about what a damaging failure our current marijuana policy has been, especially for young minorities.