Black California activists divided over legal marijuana

Because non-violent drug arrests affect black men and women disproportionately, I find myself agreeing with the sentiments of California NAACP head Alice Huffman, who supports an upcoming ballot measure to legalize marijuana in the state. Countless studies have shown that black Americans’ drug use is in line with our share of the U.S. population (about 12-13 percent of black Americans use illegal drugs), but our drug arrests far outpace that. Non-violent drug crimes help explain the soaring rate of black incarceration in the 1980s and through the 1990s.

From the NYTimes:

“I’m not encouraging anyone to recreationally use marijuana,” said Ms. Huffman. “I am simply focused on the injustice and the disparities in the criminal justice system.”

Her view is supported by Dr. Jocelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General:

Last week, proponents secured what they view as a major endorsement, that of Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the former United States surgeon general and the first black to hold that position.

In a statement to be published in a voter guide, Dr. Elders said the legalization bill would help divert law enforcement resources to more serious threats. “We can let police prevent violent crime, or we can accept the status quo, and keep wasting resources sending tens of thousands of nonviolent marijuana consumers — a disproportionate number who are minorities — to jail,” Dr. Elders wrote.

But I also have some sympathy for the view of black pastors such as the Rev. Ron Allen:

I was a pastor on crack cocaine, sir,” said Mr. Allen, who says he has been sober for 11 years and now identifies himself as the bishop of the International Faith Based Coalition here. “Drugs have no religious preference.”

And while crack cocaine laid him low, Mr. Allen says his first drug of choice was marijuana. So it is that Mr. Allen and a cadre of other black pastors, priests and other religious leaders have bonded together in recent weeks to fight what they see as a potentially devastating blow to their communities: Proposition 19, the California ballot measure that would tax and regulate marijuana.

But marijuana is no more a “gateway drug” than alcohol is. Hundreds of thousands of Americans use marijuana recreationally and don’t become addicted to other drugs. Legalizing cocaine is probably a bad idea, but legalizing and taxing marijuana may cripple the Mexican drug trade, free prison beds for violent criminals and allow police to concentrate on violent crimes.

278 comments Add your comment

Hector

July 20th, 2010
7:29 am

Legalizing cocaine is probably a bad idea, but legalizing and taxing marijuana may cripple the Mexican drug trade

You think all the fuss in the border towns is just over pot?

Hector

July 20th, 2010
7:35 am

I was just sure that todayd article was going to focus on the Obama administration finally admitting the healthcare bill is a tax…

Aquagirl

July 20th, 2010
7:40 am

When I see a quote by a pastor of any color on politics, I know I’m about to hear something stupid. They should yank the tax-exempt status of all those churches. Quit hiding behind Jesus’ skirt while you run a PAC.

T-Town

July 20th, 2010
7:45 am

Though I’m not against the legalization of pot, I’m torn over just where to stop. Lets just legalize everything and everyone and tax them. Hell, I know as a former law enforcement officer, that child porn is quite a thriving business and there is money to be made from them there perverts. After all, once these perverts say that they are sorry, all should be forgiven and we certainly have done it for many of our politicians.

Peadawg

July 20th, 2010
7:49 am

“But marijuana is no more a “gateway drug” than alcohol is”

Exactly! Marijuana should be legal in all states.

the implosion continues

July 20th, 2010
7:52 am

Can’t wait to see your piece about the racist bigot discovered in the Obama administration that was fired last night. Shirley Sherrod is cut from the same cloth as you are CT. And she’s here in Georgia, imagine that. You shamelessly try and create a faux outrage over lies about the Tea Party members, yet you don’t have the stones to report ACTUAL racism that can be found in your Messiah own backyard. You should be ashamed of yourself. Like I said, I can’t wait to read your piece about this racist bigot from Georgia.

andygrd

July 20th, 2010
7:54 am

“But marijuana is no more a “gateway drug” than alcohol is. Hundreds of thousands of Americans use marijuana recreationally and don’t become addicted to other drugs.”
Ms. Tucker, the above comment is interesting. Is it based upon facts or your opinion? If fact, I hope you did not obtain the facts from an organization want to legalize marijuana. Another thing that scares me, if we legalize marijuana, then I would think most African-Americans would blame the Government (especially if white legislators) if things went bad… Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would have a field day..
I am not ranting, just saying….

Eric

July 20th, 2010
7:57 am

One immediate problem with legalizing M. would be driving. We know the effects of, and have laws regarding DUI, but what about M.? There’s a big difference between smoking cigarettes and M. and its effect on driving.

Cynthia is Sexy!!

July 20th, 2010
7:57 am

With regard to these disproportional arrests of black men/women. I cant speak for them, however, when smoking weed etc its best not to carry it with you or let a cop see one smoking a philly blunt stuffed with weed. The cops know all the angles and while many of them are as crooked as a politician they arent as stupid as they look.

I think where the issue comes in, with these arrests is the arrogance and/or ignorance factor. “I aint gonna get caught” and all the other cliches’.

Play it smart…dont smoke weed while driving and smoking banana peels will not get one high.

Pluto

July 20th, 2010
7:58 am

Yeah that’s exactly what California needs. An intellectual enhancing substance like pot will enable deep thinking while increasing tax revenues not only from the weed but all the tasty snack treats that will accompany these stoners insatiable appetites. I bet the next tax will be on obesity. FYI I think the pastors make more sense that Aquagirl.

Granny Godzilla

July 20th, 2010
8:04 am

I support the legalization and taxation of marijuana. As I have said before I have seen its beneficial effects on the seriously ill.

By law, we can make enough homemade alcohol for personal use, we should be able to do the same with cannabis.

quod erat demonstrandum

July 20th, 2010
8:07 am

With the vote today in the primaries, why do you bring up race every chance you get?

Are we to allocate prison space based on race?

Either way, we need more slackers in our society. Just some more folks to sit around and do nothing productive.

Peadawg

July 20th, 2010
8:07 am

“As I have said before I have seen its beneficial effects on the seriously ill.”

Being old and in a nursing doesn’t count Granny. Nice try though………..that does explain a lot!

Jimmy62

July 20th, 2010
8:09 am

If I smoke pot, who does it hurt? Debatedly me but no one else. Keep your morals to.yourself, and let me do what I in my own home. And no pot advocates are pushing for driving being legal while high. There’s already a law against that, so why so people keep bringing it up? Because they don’t have any good arguments against legalizing for home use.

Drawing Black Lines

July 20th, 2010
8:09 am

CT do you mean non violent drug arrests affect black men and women disproportionately

or

black men and women disproportionately commit non violent drug crimes?

Granny Godzilla

July 20th, 2010
8:11 am

Peadawg

For a cutie patootie you have very little compamsion for those who die slow and painful deaths.

Hope that karma works out for you.

quod erat demonstrandum

July 20th, 2010
8:12 am

Granny Godzilla,

With a doctors prescription (and not a note from the Doctor), I would support medical use of marijuana. But, the health risks from the smoking, anything, far out weigh the benefits to the ill.

What type of residue(deposited in the lungs) and what type of gases are emitted from marijuana ? Have studies been done to determine that?

Oh, I know, just another stoner.

correction

July 20th, 2010
8:12 am

blacks are divided over EVERY liberal social issue. If it weren’t for the fact that they are too lazy to do a little research on their own, instead of taking what their great grandmother tells them as gospel, blacks would be voting 95% for Republicans. But for the time being, the DNC is still successful at keeping blacks dumb, angry and uninformed.

Granny Godzilla

July 20th, 2010
8:13 am

make that compassion……

Granny Godzilla

July 20th, 2010
8:16 am

qed

I think you are behind the times in your marijuana info.

the “stoner” comment was uncalled for.

quod erat demonstrandum

July 20th, 2010
8:18 am

Granny,

Maybe, but accurate.

Granny Godzilla

July 20th, 2010
8:21 am

qed

accurate for it’s time.

Aquagirl

July 20th, 2010
8:23 am

quod, unless you abstain from alcohol, we should refer to you as a drunk.

Granny Godzilla

July 20th, 2010
8:24 am

qed

forgive me, at second glance it appears you were doubling down on the insult and I let it pass.

my what a charming woman you must be!

Stan

July 20th, 2010
8:24 am

Marijuana is superior drug as to its effects and (non) addictive qualities than the commonly used heroine derivative drugs such as morphine, percocets, etc. I will bet a diet coke (versus white powder coke) we could reduce health care costs and increase health using more medical marijuana (versus morphine), stop reimbursing viagra, and really getting to the core of who really needs anti depressants.

Granny Godzilla

July 20th, 2010
8:31 am

I recently read a piece that calls for the use of marijuana as an “exit” drug.

Especially good for withdrawal from oxycontin…..know anybody who could have used that help?

Pastor Jim

July 20th, 2010
8:31 am

I don’t recommend things like alcohol and/or drugs that will alter one’s reality, but I will not attempt to pluck the twig from your eye when by doing so I would be passing human judgment. I can not afford to lose faith and question the reasoning of our founding fathers. The annals of history provide the resulting evidence of this paradigm for those wise enough to see it. For that reason I firmly stand with Abraham Lincoln “A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded”

StJ

July 20th, 2010
8:37 am

Oh, I get it…Black people being arrested for doing something that’s illegal – quick, legalize that.

I suppose carjacking, murder, rape, and gang activity should be legal too…since blacks are disproportionately arrested and convicted of those crimes as well.

Curious George

July 20th, 2010
8:39 am

Black California ‘acitivists’ may be divided over legalizing the pot, but how do they feel about the kettle?

A CONSERVATIVE

July 20th, 2010
8:46 am

CYNTHIA……..WHY DON’T YOU JUST MOVE TO CALIFORNIA..YOU WOULD FIT IN QUITE NICELY WITH ALL THE OTHER KOOKs..

Drawing Black Lines

July 20th, 2010
8:48 am

There is a lot of evidence for the ‘Harm Reduction’ model that would lessen the negative effects of abuse and overuse of certain drugs such as marijuana and steroids and other non life threatening drugs. Harm reduction is a sensible, medically backed approach the specializes in education and sifting through the stain of media hysteria to provide safety for those who use them. This by the way is the same approach that is used for alcohol education. The difference is alcohol can kill you from withdrawals, overdose, and lessened inhibition leading to crime or accidents. The same cannot be said for non life threatening drugs such as marijuana and steroids.

Sam (The Cool 1 )

July 20th, 2010
8:49 am

Again The Cisco Kid says, No to Loco Weed!

casual observer

July 20th, 2010
8:49 am

In the video Sherrod, who is black, admits to the crowd at the NAACP banquet she didn’t do everything she could to help a white farmer whom she said was condescending when he came to her for aid.

More racism at the “stuffed suit do-nothing” NAACP

JF McNamara

July 20th, 2010
8:52 am

So the two highly educated people want to legalize it, but the crack head pastor with no education at all is against it. I think I’ll got with the smart people.

Libertarian Dave

July 20th, 2010
8:52 am

I don’t think that I have every agreed with anything promoted by Cynthia Tucker, but in this case I agree with the legalization of marijuana and it has nothing to do with a dispropotionate number of blacks incarcerated for drug related crimes. I smoke neither pot nor cigarettes…and never have so I have no prejudiced position based on my own use. As an attorney I see many of these cases in Court and consider it to be a waste of taxpayer money and court time to prosecute cases simply for the use of a drug that is no worse than cigarettes or alcohol. Think of the savings to taxpayers that could be realized by the simple legalization of marijuana and the government could use the money for other purposes…such as enforcing immigration laws. However, you have to wonder what the agenda is when the feds sue AZ for attempting to control it borders, but do not sue CA, CO, WA and other states that have decriminalized pot use. Don’t federal drug enforcement laws (wrongly I might add) prempt state laws which allow the medicinal use of marijuana. Hmmmmm.

Williebkind

July 20th, 2010
8:54 am

Ok let us invoke a little common sense! Using Marijuana has far more implications than to get high and have better sex. If you leglize Marijuana, does that mean employers can not fire you after a random drug test. How will that affect the labor force? How does it affect drivers–because we know it is crazy to drive in Atlanta. Are the drug cartels in Mexico going to stay in Mexico or will they bring their murderous anarchy to the US? Personally I prefer my family not using drugs to include alcohol but that is a personal choice.

Hoghead

July 20th, 2010
8:56 am

Marijuana makes you mellow, slows you down and chills you out. The last thing we need is more lazy, shiftless, dope heads, lying around smoking weed and giggling. California is a pot head state and look where it is right now financially. It has some high achievers, but an awful lot of bums on the dole, lying around smoking grass. Why make it legal? Just don’t arrest people for smoking if you don’t want to. I mean the feds don’t enforce immigration laws, so why do they have to enforce pot laws?

quod erat demonstrandum

July 20th, 2010
8:59 am

Aquagirl,

A typical argument comparing apples to oranges

Yes, I do enjoy a drop now and then, but it is a legal, taxes, regulated, inspected and approved drop.

As with other arguments pro and con for the use of tobacco, I would assume you are for tobacco use also.

It would follow that if you are for the smoking of one type of burning plant life, your would not object to inhaling smoke from other burning plant life.

It would be disingenuous to be pro marijuana and anti tobacco. Both have supposed medical benefits.

Dave from GT

July 20th, 2010
9:00 am

Who cares about black california activitsts? Answer: black georgia activists.!!

joe

July 20th, 2010
9:02 am

I wonder if the drug arrests of black men and women are a direct result of their choice to make some sort of living by selling, manufacturing, or distributing pot. If they had made a different choice, the number of arrests would be lower. As the saying goes, your reap what you sow…

joebatch

July 20th, 2010
9:02 am

good lord,can not anyone not read an article written on a lot of sites including this one and digest what you have read and then try to have a civil discourse or at least some civil back and forth of ideas and try to come to a meeting of the minds and try for a compromise without all the hatred and unnecessary hatred all the time?and some wonder why is the same crap coming out of Washington,DC from our elected members of Congress and the Senate it seems that they do seem to have a willing audience from the public so why not pander to the lowest mind set that is out there that will continue to vote for them time after time?why so much hatred?

Williebkind

July 20th, 2010
9:03 am

Since they are out of work, who will pay for their drugs?

Jim

July 20th, 2010
9:03 am

Wow, another article by Cynthia Tucker where the main theme is race! It must be terrible to see life through that prism. She is the reason I stopped subscribing to the paper.

david wayne osedach

July 20th, 2010
9:08 am

If they legalize marijuana in California most people will grow their own. Especially if they tax it like they think they’re going totax it!

Rational Citizen

July 20th, 2010
9:09 am

First, to Hector. Mexican cartels derive approximately 60% of their total revenues from marijuana. So no, “all” the fuss in the border towns isn’t about marijuana. Just about 60% of it is.

To all the rest of you reading this post, liberal or conservative. The “war on drugs” in this country has been a complete and total failure by any measurable statistic. The prohibition of alcohol was repealed in this country during the Great Depression because the federal government was scrambling to find revenue. The similarities between then and now are astounding. Our governments, local, state, and federal, are drowning in red ink. While the legalization, regulation, and TAXATION of marijuana is in no way going to solve our problems, what it will do is contribute to the solution.

Every time someone is arrested for marijuana possession, we as taxpayers are paying for the arrest, for keeping that individual incarcerated while they await their court hearing, for the judge, defense lawyer, prosecutor, court reporter, bailiff, etc, to put them on trial, and if they are given a jail sentence for the cost to house and feed a non-violent offender.

Furthermore, every time someone purchases marijuana from their local dealer, we as taxpayers don’t see any benefit. These people aren’t opening up legitimate businesses. They are not employing people. They are not paying sales taxes, payroll taxes, Social Security taxes, etc. We can generate jobs here in America while simultaneously crippling the Mexican cartels. And if you don’t think taking away 60% of the cartels’ revenue is going to cripple them then ask any small business owner in your community what they would do if 60% of their revenue went away overnight.

Rational Citizen

July 20th, 2010
9:11 am

To David Wayne Osedach…are you making gin in your bathtub? Your logic is beyond absurd.

Dawgmess

July 20th, 2010
9:12 am

“Countless studies have shown that black Americans’ drug use is in line with our share of the U.S. population (about 12-13 percent of black Americans use illegal drugs)”

That’s absurd! Does that mean that 87-88 percent of non-black Americans use illegal drugs? After that’s their share of the U.S. population.

Van Jones

July 20th, 2010
9:12 am

“Because non-violent drug arrests affect black men and women disproportionately…” As opposed to black men and women may disproportionately participate in drug activities. Nice play on words.

“Countless studies have shown that black Americans’ drug use is in line with our share of the U.S. population (about 12-13 percent of black Americans use illegal drugs), but our drug arrests far outpace that.” What percent participates in drug activity?

“Non-violent drug crimes help explain the soaring rate of black incarceration.” Well, at least they were non-violent.

LEGALIZE NATURE

July 20th, 2010
9:14 am

It is time to LEGALIZE THE MOST BENEFICIAL NATURAL PLANT TO EVER EXIST!

quod erat demonstrandum

July 20th, 2010
9:15 am

Van Jones,

Does this mean some parts of the population are just unlucky in getting caught or not smart enough to be discrete in its use?