A national association which represents African American police officers has officially thrown its weight behind the cannabis legalization initiative, Proposition 19. The campaign to decriminalize marijuana continues to gain momentum with black communities and law enforcement officials.
The National Black Police Association (NBPA), at 15,000 members strong, is endorsing the measure. Ron Hampton, the association's executive director agrees with the NAACP (which already announced its support for Prop 19) that it's time to put an end to laws which disproportionally affect young adults and minorities.
NAACP support of the measure was prompted by a Drug Policy Alliance report which showed that African Americans account for 22% of marijuana arrests even though they make up less than 7% of the population. Hampton says prohibition has had nothing but a negative impact on the black community and that money wasted on the Drug War would be better invested in things which help struggling populations such as education and housing. “It just seemed like to me that we have been distracted in this whole thing,” he told the LA Times. “We can take that money, and focus and concentrate on things that really make a difference in our community.”
Hampton, a retired Washington, D.C., police officer with 25 years experience, stated, “We’ve got more people in prison. We’ve got more young people in prison. Blacks go to jail more than whites for doing the same thing.” Prop 19, in his view, will make enforcement of California's penal code less discriminatory. “It means that we will be locking up less African American men and women and children who are using drugs.”
The association's support was announced by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) last Thursday in a news release. Neill Franklin, a retired police officer and the executive director of LEAP joined Alice Huffman – California's NAACP chapter president and staunch supporter of Prop 19 – on a panel discussion at the black police association's conference in Sacramento last week. “I saw with my own eyes the devastating impact these misguided marijuana laws have on our communities and neighborhoods,” said Franklin, who is black and has 33 years of law enforcement experience under his belt.
Proposition 19 would allow people 21 years and older to grow marijuana and possess up to one ounce.