Wednesday, July 21, 2010

preachers ALWAYS trying to set folk back....,

NYTimes | How black voters in California decide on Proposition 19, which would allow anyone 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, could be critical to its success or failure. (At the moment, possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, about an ounce, is punishable in most cases by up to six months in prison and a $500 fine.)

Blacks make up less than 10 percent of the population in California, but unlike two larger minority groups in the state where opinions on the measure are also split — Asians and Latinos — their “participation in elections is on par with their populations,” according to the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit group here.

In the case of Proposition 19 — which is trailing narrowly in a recent Field Poll — appeals to that potential swing bloc have already begun, and the measure’s backers have been seeking out the support of prominent black leaders. Last week, proponents secured what they view as a major endorsement, that of Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the former United States surgeon general and the first black to hold that position.

In a statement to be published in a voter guide, Dr. Elders said the legalization bill would help divert law enforcement resources to more serious threats. “We can let police prevent violent crime, or we can accept the status quo, and keep wasting resources sending tens of thousands of nonviolent marijuana consumers — a disproportionate number who are minorities — to jail,” Dr. Elders wrote.

Kamala D. Harris, the San Francisco district attorney, who is black, joined the opposition last week. Ms. Harris, who is running for state attorney general, issued a statement saying that the proposition would encourage “driving while high” and drugs in the workplace.

Enforcement of marijuana possession laws is a touchy topic among many blacks here and nationwide.

This month, the Drug Policy Alliance — a New York group that is supporting Proposition 19 — released a study showing that blacks were arrested for possession at far higher rates than whites in California’s 25 largest counties, often two or three times higher. In those 25 counties, blacks make up 7 percent of the population but accounted for 20 percent of the marijuana possession arrests; in Los Angeles County, which accounts for about a quarter of the state’s population, blacks were arrested for marijuana possession at three times the rate of whites.

At the moment, 1,515 people are in California prisons on marijuana charges, 750 of them black, state corrections officials say.

The study’s author, Harry G. Levine, a professor of sociology at Queens College who has discovered similar trends in marijuana arrests in New York City, said that the impact of those arrests could be profound.

“A criminal record lasts a lifetime,” Mr. Levine wrote. “The explosive growth of criminal record databases, and the ease with which those databases can be accessed on the Internet, creates barriers to employment, housing and education for anyone simply arrested for drug possession.”

Rob MacCoun, a professor of law and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied marijuana use in America, said there was little doubt that blacks — particularly black men — bore the brunt of arrests for marijuana.

“The arrest statistics are disproportionate with respect to African-Americans and disproportionate with respect to use,” said Mr. MacCoun. “And that’s very hard to justify in any way.”