The California chapter of the NAACP is endorsing a November ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use and Sacramento minister Ron Allen is furious.
Their competing arguments stir debate over which perceived threat is greater for African Americans police exploiting existing marijuana law to target urban minorities or legalized pot endangering youths and communities.
In a news conference today, the California State Conference of the NAACP is due to throw its support behind the initiative to legalize marijuana for adults over 21, allow small residential cultivation and permit cities to tax and regulate pot sales.
In a statement, Alice Huffman, the state NAACP president, said the organization is backing the initiative, Proposition 19, to counter marijuana arrest rates that she contends unfairly target African Americans.
"There is a strong racial component that must be considered when we investigate how marijuana laws are applied to people of color," she said. "The burden has fallen disproportionately on people of color and young black men in particular."
But Allen, president of the International Faith-Based Coalition, a Sacramento group representing 3,600 congregations, said he is stunned the state NAACP would favor legalized marijuana.
"Most African American pastors are disappointed, absolutely disappointed with the decision," said Allen, bishop of the Greater Solomon Temple Community Church in Oak Park. "If anyone should know the effects of illicit drugs in the black community, it should be one of our most respected civil rights organizations."
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