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Naacp Endorses Federal Marijuana Bill

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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People pledged last month to promote passage of a bill in Congress that would exempt those complying with state marijuana laws from federal prosecution.

The resolution passed by the organization’s national board of directors in October notes that the “War on Drugs” disproportionately landed minorities behind bars, swelling the prison population and imposing collateral consequences of arrests and convictions disproportionately on racial and ethnic minorities. A recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that, while whites and blacks use marijuana at relatively similar rates, blacks are four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana.

NAACP’s Colorado chapter endorsed that state’s ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, noting similar state statistics on disproportionate arrests of African Americans. And other NAACP chapters have supported state bills to legalize or roll back marijuana penalties.

Last month’s endorsement, however, lends considerable weight to a more controversial federal move to give states more discretion on drug policy. The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013 is one of several bipartisan bills aimed at reconciling federal law with state approaches to roll back draconian marijuana penalties. While these state laws are not akin to “nullification” as some “tenthers” have suggested, Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority points out that an NAACP endorsement may “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,” given the legacy of “states’ rights” in the civil rights movement.

Read the resolution here.



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