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Nov-09-2013 14:51printcomments

NAACP Backs 'States' Rights' on Marijuana Laws

NAACP resolution notes that new state laws are moderating the impact of "extreme federal policies."

NAACP

(WASHINGTON, DC) - NAACP and other civil rights groups -- for important historical reasons -- have not always been so keen on the idea of states' rights. Now, however, due in no small part to the racial disparities in enforcement of the failed "war on drugs," the group is endorsing a bipartisan Congressional bill that will let states set their own marijuana policies.

Passed by the NAACP's Board of Directors at a meeting last month, the resolution notes that new state laws such as those legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington are moderating the impact of "extreme federal policies." It also points out the "extreme economic consequences to the present day enforcement of marijuana laws" and says that the resources being spent on prohibition "could be spent on education, job training, and other valuable services."

A copy of the full resolution is pasted below.

Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority, made the following statement in regard to the new NAACP position:

    "For obvious historical reasons, many civil rights leaders who agree with us about the harms of marijuana prohibition still remain reluctant to see the states chart their own courses out of the failed 'war on drugs.' Having the NAACP's support for a states' rights approach to marijuana reform is going to have a huge impact and will provide comfort and cover to politicians and prominent people who want to see prohibition end but who are a little skittish about states getting too far ahead of the feds on this issue."

NAACP SUPPORTS ALLOWING STATES TO DECREASE PENALTIES FOR LOW-LEVEL DRUG POSSESSION

WHEREAS, as a result of the “War on Drugs” and mandatory minimum sentences imposed largely at the federal level, the prison population has exploded in the past few decades; and

WHEREAS, one crucial result of these misguided and misplaced policies has been the disproportionate over-confinement of racial and ethnic minorities: more than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities; and

WHEREAS, two-thirds of all persons in prison today for drug offenses are people of color; and

WHEREAS, more than 700,000 people annually are arrested in the United States for the possession of marijuana; and

WHEREAS, even though numerous studies demonstrate that whites and African Americans use and sell marijuana at relatively the same rates, studies also demonstrate that African Americans are, on average, almost 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some jurisdictions Blacks are 30 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites; and

WHEREAS, there are also extreme economic consequences to the present day enforcement of marijuana laws; nationally, states spent an estimated $3.61 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010 alone; money that could be spent on education, job training, and other valuable services; and

WHEREAS, several states throughout the U.S. have departed from current federal law to develop more well-tailored and effective guidelines and sentencing ranges for small, low-level marijuana use which are moderating some of the more extreme federal policies and their repercussions; and

WHEREAS, these state laws are at times at odds with federal laws; and

WHEREAS, legislation has been introduced in the 113th Congress, H.R. 1523, with strong bipartisan support, which would prohibit the federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states which have lesser penalties.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP supports H.R. 1523 and encourages its swift enactment; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP Washington Bureau shall contact Members of the Congress and urge the swift enactment of H.R. 1523.

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