NAACP Passes Resolution on HR. 1523

(Baltimore, MD)— During the October 2013 NAACP Board of Directors meeting, board members passed a resolution that supports allowing states to decrease penalties for low-level marijuana possession and supports prohibiting federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states which have lesser penalties.

The bipartisan legislation in question, H.R. 1523, prohibits the federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states which have decreased penalties, allowed medical use, or legalized recreational use; including, Washington, Colorado, California, and the District of Columbia. The state level law changes will impact communities of color the most.

Annually, more than 700,000 people are arrested in the United States for possession of marijuana. Although studies show that whites and African Americans use and sell marijuana at relatively the same rates, African Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession—30 times more likely in some jurisdictions.

The following is a full text copy of the resolution:

NAACP SUPPORTS ALLOWING STATES TO DECREASE PENALTIES FOR LOW-LEVEL DRUG POSSESSION

WHEREAS, as a result of the “War on Drugs” and mandatory minimum sentences imposed largely at the federal level, the prison population has exploded in the past few decades; and

WHEREAS, one crucial result of these misguided and misplaced policies has been the disproportionate over-confinement of racial and ethnic minorities: more than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities; and

WHEREAS, two-thirds of all persons in prison today for drug offenses are people of color; and

WHEREAS, more than 700,000 people annually are arrested in the United States for the possession of marijuana; and

WHEREAS, 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; and

WHEREAS, there are also extreme economic consequences to the present day enforcement of marijuana laws; nationally, states spent an estimated $3.61 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010 alone; money that could be spent on education, job training, and other valuable services; and

WHEREAS, several states throughout the U.S. have departed from current federal law to develop more well-tailored and effective guidelines and sentencing ranges for small, low-level marijuana use which are moderating some of the more extreme federal policies and their repercussions; and

WHEREAS, these state laws are at times at odds with federal laws; and

WHEREAS, legislation has been introduced in the 113th Congress, H.R. 1523, with strong bipartisan support, which would prohibit the federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states which have lesser penalties.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP supports H.R. 1523 and encourages its swift enactment; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP Washington Bureau shall contact Members of the Congress and urge the swift enactment of H.R. 1523.

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities.  You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our five “Game Changer” issue areas here.

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