Patt Morrison for July 23, 2010

The African American community’s haze over Prop. 19—the double edged sword of legalizing marijuana

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The African American community's vote on Proposition 19 could have a major impact on whether it passes or not

There has, arguably, been no other community in California (and the entire country) that has been so heavily victimized both by the war on drugs and the drugs themselves than African Americans. The rates of arrest, conviction and incarceration of blacks for drug crimes in California dwarf all other demographic groups; the rate of drug addiction in black neighborhoods is equally high. Along comes Prop. 19, which promises the legalization of marijuana, and the choices that black voters must make in November become stark: will making pot legal help to end the dramatic disparities in the prosecutions of drug cases against black defendants or will it unleash the full ravages of drug addiction on black communities? A recent Field Poll found that 40% of black voters backed Prop. 19 while 52% opposed it. What kind of impact would legalized marijuana use have on California’s African Americans?


Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; 33-year veteran of the Maryland State Police & Baltimore Police forces

Rev. Darryl Barnard Heath, Pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Sacramento

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