Opinion

Commentary: NAACP's hazy reasoning in call for marijuana legalization

The pro-marijuana forces will seemingly do anything to get weed approved by California voters for recreational use come November.

Last week, they played the race card by pushing the idea that marijuana should be legalized due to discriminatory pot laws. The California State Conference of the NAACP bought in and endorsed the Control & Tax Cannabis Initiative of 2010.

"I want to save the children," said Alice Huffman, California's NAACP president.

You wonder what Thurgood Marshall would have thought of that statement given the sacred NAACP mission of "advancement" for "colored people." How does making it easier to get stoned advance that cause?

It is true that African Americans are charged with marijuana possession in disproportionate numbers. In Sacramento County, according to a study cited by the NAACP, African Americans are roughly 10 percent of the population but make up nearly 40 percent of suspects arrested for pot possession between 2004 and 2008.

But legalizing marijuana is not the answer. The idea of simply making an abused substance legal — instead of focusing on police practices and sentencing laws — won't make young blacks safer.

It won't stop African American gangs who prey on other African Americans. Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel said gang activity and weapons seizures are up in Sacramento this year.

Those trends contribute to African Americans showing up disproportionately as crime victims and suspects in roughly half the rapes and robberies in Sacramento County. "Nobody ever wants to have that conversation," Braziel said.

Legalized pot won't make black-market sales of cheap pot go away — or the gangs who sell it.

It's curious that NAACP cited the work of Queens College sociologist Harry Levine in its endorsement.

Levine himself takes no position. He sees no racist conspiracy among police. Rather, his work reveals issues that make pot legalization irrelevant.

"The reason why these numbers are so racially biased has almost everything to do with where police are deployed and what they are asked to do," Levine said.

"A cop is worried about if he is going to get in trouble, or even worse, if his commander is going to get in trouble for arresting the nephew of someone influential.

"Obviously, low-income blacks or Latinos are not going to get that kind of political help. As a result, police don't target the young white people who are more likely to use and possess marijuana."

So instead of promoting marijuana, shouldn't the NAACP be supporting legislation that would reduce the penalties for low-level marijuana possession arrests? How does legalizing pot help young black males be successful? It doesn't. The idea is like marijuana use itself — a muddled break from reality.

  Comments