Proposition 19 in California is on the ballot for a November vote. If approved, this initiative would permit the recreational use of marijuana in the Golden State. Chances are reasonable that voter turnout will be significant, but to suggest that legalizing pot is a civil rights issue seems to be a slap in the face to those who have suffered, struggled, and won hard fought advances for equality and freedom from persecution.
So who is endorsing Proposition 19 as a civil rights issue? Shockingly, it is an organization that has been one of the leaders in the civil rights movement in the United States, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
A collection of strange bedfellows support the legalization of marijuana. Among them are the "pot heads', those who just want to get high and enjoy a doobie or two a day. There is a segment of the medical community who recognize the benefits of medical marijuana for patients suffering certain afflictions. An association of law enforcement and legal professionals known as LEAP (www.leap.cc) Law Enforcement Against Prohibition supports drug legalization in general. And if you do not personally support legalizing marijuana, chances are better than average that your neighbor does. But one would have been hard pressed to think that any civil rights organization would want to jump in to such a spirited debate as this.
Has the NAACP run out of civil rights battles?
The NAACP claims African-Americans are disproportionately affected by the criminalization of marijuana and for this reason, makes Proposition 19 a civil rights issue. Supposing their claim is accurate, there could be several possible reasons why this would be true. But, a civil rights issue? Come on.
Various legislation enacted in California tends to lead other states into similar discussion and debate, so this November will be instrumental in influencing sister states to consider legalizing pot. That is good news for both sides of the equation. Healthy debate is exactly what is needed to weed through this tangled issue (celebrate the pun folks).