President Obama spoke to the NAACP’s 100th convention, the first time the group has had a black president as speaker. The president’s speech was at times inspirational, but his talk ignored the elephant in the room at the NAACP, the drug war that has so devastated the black community. In fact, the president’s presence at the convention was due only to the fact that he himself, as a self confessed teenage cannabis user, was not ensnared by the same cruel laws and racially corrosive justice system that he now leaves unchallenged.
The NAACP did have debate on legalizing cannabis, as reported by Radical Russ Belville in Norml’s Daily Audio Stash. This debate, however, did not seem to recognize the drug war policies so devastating to the black community over the last 40 years. Ethan Nadelmann pointed out that of the yearly 800,000+ cannabis arrests in the USA, nearly 40% ensnare black and brown Americans. Often their first arrest, says Nadelmann, often for one joint. They are damaged not by the use of a mild drug, but damaged they are by arrest and prosecution.
- Should marijuana be legalized? Yes.
- What impact would it have on African-Americans? Well, first off, it might mean that not 1-in-3 black men would be under correctional supervision (prison, parole, probation) and there might be more young black men in college than prison.
A 2008 New York Times article, On Arrests, Demographics, and Marijuana, showed that in New York City arrested nearly 400,000 people for pot possession in the years 1998-2007. This is nearly 100 young lives daily scarred and compromised by a needless arrest. Citing the study, the NYT article pointed out:
- And 83 percent of those charged in these cases were black or Latino, according to the study. Blacks accounted for 52 percent of the arrests, twice their share of the city’s population. Whites, who are about 35 percent of the population, were only 15 percent of those charged – even though federal surveys show that whites are more likely than blacks or Latino.
The NAACP should be out on the streets in force, tearing down the un-American drug war. Current drug war policies and laws, along with their enforcement, are like an enormous, bloated tick, feeding upon the lives of American citizens, most of them brown and black. Shame on NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, normally a sensible man, for supporting such injustice.
The drug war policy Barack Obama should have urged on the NAACP was delivered by Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance.