NAACP Back Marijuana Federalism

The National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recently

a bill that would make the federal ban on marijuana
inapplicable to people who grow, possess, or distribute cannabis in
compliance with state law. H.R. 1523, the Respect State
Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, would essentially repeal (or at least
limit) federal pot prohibition in the 21 states that allow medical
or recreational use of the drug. So far the bill, which was
introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), has 20
, including five more Republicans: Justin Amash
(Mich.), Dan Benishek (Mich.), Don Young (Alaska), Duncan
Hunter (Calif.), and Steve Stockman (Texas). 

The NAACP resolution endorsing H.R. 1523, which was adopted
by its board of directors at a meeting last month, notes that “even
though numerous studies demonstrate that whites and African
Americans use and sell marijuana at relatively the same rates,
studies also demonstrate that African Americans are, on average,
almost 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession,
and in some jurisdictions Blacks are 30 times more likely to be
arrested for marijuana possession than whites.” The NAACP, which in
recent years has highlighted the
racially disproportionate impact of marijuana prohibition and
the war on drugs, last year
the successful legalization initiatives in Colorado
and Washington, so it’s not surprising that the organization wants
the feds to step back and let those experiments proceed. But Tom
Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority,
that the NAACP’s willingness to stand up for state’s
rights is significant given the group’s history of battling
segregationists who (erroneously) waved that banner:

For obvious historical reasons, many civil rights leaders who
agree with us about the harms of marijuana prohibition still remain
reluctant to see the states chart their own courses out of the
failed “war on drugs.” Having the NAACP’s support for a states’
rights approach to marijuana reform is going to have a huge impact
and will 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

As I’ve argued
in Reason, there is nothing inherently right-wing about
the Constitution’s division of powers between the states and the
federal government. Properly understood, federalism was never a
license for violating rights protected by the 14th Amendment, and
today it can profitably be employed by progressives to further
their own causes. Ending the war on drugs should be at the top of
the list. 

from Hit & Run

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