Marijuana: NAACP backs bill calling for feds to respect states' pot rights
In April, we told you about the Respect State Rights Marijuana Act of 2013, which calls on the federal government to respect state marijuana laws. Among the original co-sponsors: Colorado Representative Jared Polis.
Photos and more below.
Since then, the legislation has made little progress, but it's just gotten a boost. The NAACP has passed a resolution in support of the measure, and Rosemary Lytle, president of the Colorado Montana Wyoming State Conference, explains why it's a priority.
"We at the NAACP have a historic hesitancy about states' right causes," Lytle acknowledges, and no wonder, since this particular argument has been advanced throughout the nation's history to enslave or discriminate against people of color. "But in this case, we fully support the legislative effort for all the reasons outlined in the resolution."
The document's text, seen below in its entirety, notes that "more than 60 percent of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities" and "two-thirds of all persons in prison today for drug offenses are people of color." And Lytle adds some statistics from a study created by the 2012 campaign supporting Amendment 64, which allowed adults 21 and over to use and possess small amounts of marijuana.
"Around 35 percent of marijuana arrests in Colorado were of African-Americans and Latinos," she notes, "even though African-Americans only make up about 4 percent of the population and Latinos are about 19 percent. So that number is hugely and egregiously disproportionate when you look at the overall population, and shows the impact of a failed and flawed drug policy. You don't have to look far. It's in our own backyard."
Graphics from the study, entitled "Marijuana Possession Arrests in Colorado 1986-2010" (we've included it below, as well), illustrate Lytle's point. The first depicts marijuana possession arrest rates of whites, Latinos and blacks in Colorado....
Figures like these helped convince the Colorado Montana Wyoming state conference to support Amendment 64 by a state leaders' vote of 75-4. And attending the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver last month only reinforced Lytle's view that this was the right move. At one session, she recalls, Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, "said something I'll never forget. He said there are some people who love drugs, some people who hate drugs, some people who never think about drugs, but there's one thing for sure: No other country in the world incarcerates more people, and especially more black folks, because of drugs.
"That's why this is important. This resolution just fits with where I see my head and my heart as I think about social justice and the idea of a drug policy that supports people."
As such, she's eager to answer the national organization's "call to action for state conferences to talk with our congressional delegations" about the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013 -- "marching orders as foot soldiers in the movement to speak out and convince them to support it."
Continue to read the NAACP resolution, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013 and a study of marijuana possession arrests in Colorado from 1986 to 2010.