Tue, 29 Jun 2010, By: Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
The California NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) today expressed its “unconditional support” for The Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Initiative 2010, which will appear on the November statewide ballot.
The measure, also known as Proposition 19, would allow adults 21 years or older to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. It would also permit local governments the option to authorize the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis to adults. Personal marijuana cultivation or not-for-profit sales of marijuana would not be taxed under the measure.
The California NAACP announced its endorsement of the measure at a news conference in Sacramento this morning. The press conference coincided with the release of a report finding that African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession offenses in California’s 25 largest counties at more than twice the rates of Caucasians.
“Young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites. Yet from 2004 through 2008, in every one of the 25 largest counties in California, blacks were arrested for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites, typically at double, triple or even quadruple the rate of whites,” the report concluded. “[B]acks were arrested for simple marijuana possession far out of proportion to their percentage in the total population of the counties. In the 25 largest counties as a whole, blacks are 7% of the population but 20% of the people arrested for possessing marijuana.”
Statewide, authors reported that in 2008 African Americans and Latinos combined comprised less than 44% of the state’s population, but together constituted 56% of the people arrested in California for possessing marijuana. An estimated 80 percent of those arrested were age 29 or younger.
Since 1990, annual marijuana possession arrests of youth of color in California have risen from 3,100 to over 16,000 — an increase that is about three times greater than the group’s population growth.
Alice Huffman, President of the California State Conference of the NAACP stated: “We have empirical proof that the application of the marijuana laws has been unfairly applied to young people of color. … We are joining a growing number of medical professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, local municipalities, and approximately 56% of the public, in saying that it is time to (depenalize) the [adult] use of marijuana.”
In 2008, police in California made over 61,000 arrests for marijuana possession offenses, a criminal misdemeanor. Law enforcement made over 17,000 additional arrests for marijuana felony violations – a category that includes personal cultivation of even a single plant.