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NAACP Champions Pot Legalization in Colorado

NAACP endorses a legalization measure as a step towards ending racial disparity in the prison system.

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Harris Lytle says pot prohibition harms the
black community. Photo via

By Bryan Le

08/23/12

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Colorado's Amendment 64—a ballot measure to legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol—has won new backing from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who have long claimed that pot laws unfairly target the black population. In 2010, African-Americans accounted for about 9% of marijuana possession arrests and 22% of arrests for marijuana sales and cultivation—despite only making up roughly 4% of Colorado's population, according to an NAACP statement. These numbers were particularly disproportionate in Denver, where African-Americans accounted for over 31.5% percent of arrests for marijuana possession, while constituting less than 11% of the city's population. "In ending the prohibition against adult use of marijuana we might affect mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on African-Americans and other people of color," says Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of the NAACP's Amendment 64 Conference. "Marijuana prohibition policy does more harm to our communities than good." Although not in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker is one politician who has echoed these claims about the devastating impact of drug policy on the black community, saying the war on drugs is ineffective and "represents big overgrown government at its worst." Coloradans will vote on Amendment 64 on November 6. They considered but rejected a similar recreational pot legalization initiative in 2006.

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