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Bipartisan Marijuana Bill Appears To Have One More Big Supporter In Its Corner: The NAACP

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AP
AP

A bipartisan bill advocating for states rights on marijuana appears to have one more big supporter in its corner.

Marijuana Majority said Saturday in an email that the NAACP's Board of Directors passed a resolution last month in support of H.R. 1523 -- the Respect States Marijuana Laws Act. Introduced in April by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), the legislation is designed to protect both medical and recreational pot users from federal prosecution for following state laws.

"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,'" wrote Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority, in the email. "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 issue."

As of Saturday, the bill had a strong range of bipartisan support with 20 cosponsors, including 15 Democrats. Back in April, Rohrabacher stressed that this was a "common-sense approach" to establishing boundaries between federal and local jurisdictions.

"This bipartisan bill represents a common-sense approach that establishes federal government respect for all states’ marijuana laws. It does so by keeping the federal government out of the business of criminalizing marijuana activities in states that don’t want it to be criminal," Rohrabacher said at the time of the bill's unveiling.

Below, a copy of the resolution, as provided by Marijuana Majority:

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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