Legalizing pot: Is Prop. 64 really a civil rights issue? (CALmatters)
By Nadra Nittle, CALmatters, November 3, 2016
For rapper Jay Z, the war on drugs is personal: “Young men like me who hustle became the sole villain." That’s why the hip-hop mogul— who once dealt drugs in his New York public housing project and recently made a video denouncing current drug policy as an "epic fail"—is now endorsing a California ballot proposition to legalize recreational marijuana.
It’s also personal to Alice Huffman, who has backed efforts to ease marijuana restrictions during her 16-year tenure as president of the California NAACP, once even incurring the wrath of black pastors demanding her resignation. She says she’s no stoner—“I’ve never even touched it”—but her concern about the inequities of the war on drugs led her to back marijuana legalization. “We know any time there are some things that are illegal,” she says, “we [African Americans] will be targeted more.”
Supporters of Proposition 64 have various motives. Some like getting high and would prefer not to have to break the law to do it. Some see it as a burgeoning industry and are eager to get in on the “Green Rush” to riches. But drafters also sought the support of civil rights groups, and included provisions that addressed their concerns. Today the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance all tout Prop. 64 as a way to help remedy the mass incarceration of people of color for drug offenses, uneven sentencing guidelines for drug crimes and gang violence rooted in the drug trade.
Prop. 64, they say, would take unprecedented steps to address racial and economic injustices in drug policy.