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Feature: Race and Reefer -- the African American Vote in California's Marijuana Legalization Initiative

With the clock ticking down toward Election Day in November, both proponents and opponents of California's Control and Tax Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative, now known officially as Proposition 19, are going after the African American vote. As things currently stand, the community is highly supportive of marijuana legalization in principle, but not necessarily of the initiative itself at this time.

A Survey USA poll done in April found that support for marijuana legalization among blacks was at 67%, the highest level of any major ethnic group in the state. Whites were second at 59%, followed by Asians at 58% and Hispanics at 45%. The findings are consistent with other polls that show similar high levels of support for pot legalization in the state's black community.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/sacramento-jan10-2.jpg
Bishop Allen and police lobbying last January against the Ammiano legalization bill, Sacramento
But demonstrating that nothing is a given in the wild word of ballot campaigns, a Field Poll released Friday morning showed Prop. 19 slipping from being slightly ahead to slightly behind (44%-48% this time), with African Americans giving it only 40%.

While African Americans constitute only 5.8% of the state's electorate, the November vote is shaping up to be extremely close, and holding onto key constituencies, even relatively small ones, could end up making the difference on Election Day.

Author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson is one of those black people who are ready to free the weed. "I fully support legalization," he told the Chronicle. "The drug wars have criminalized a generation of young blacks, destabilized families, further impoverished communities, and wildly expanded the prison-industrial complex. It is costly, wasteful and ineffective. It drains precious tax dollars, public resources, and public policy initiatives from expansion and improvement of health, education, and businesses, social services and urban reconstruction. It's been well documented that for a faction of the billions spent on a racially-tinged wasteful drug war, if spent on skills training, drug counseling, prevention, job creation, and family support programs thousands of lives could be reclaimed."

Legalization backers have been working hard in recent weeks to solidify and even extend such sentiments. At the end of last month, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) issued a report, Targeting Blacks for Marijuana, demonstrating that African-Americans bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement in California. The report, authored by Queens College sociologist Harry Levine, examined marijuana arrests in California's 25 most populous counties and found a consistent, statewide pattern of racial disparities in who was getting arrested for pot possession.

Despite blacks using marijuana at a slightly lower rate than whites, blacks were more than three times as likely to be arrested for possession in the counties of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma, and more than twice as likely to be arrested in Contra Costa, Fresno, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernadino, Santa Clara, and Solano counties.

In Los Angeles, blacks make up 10% of the population, but constitute 30% of pot possession busts. In San Diego, blacks are 5.6% of the population, but account for 20% of arrests. In Sacramento, blacks get busted at a rate nearly four times one would expect based on the demographics. They make up 10.4% of the population in the state capital, but account for a whopping 38% of pot possession arrests.

"The findings in this report are a chilling reminder of the day-to-day realities of marijuana prohibition and the large-scale racist enforcement at its core," said Stephen Gutwillig, DPA's California director. "Racial justice demands ending this policy disaster and replacing it with a sensible regulatory system that redirects law enforcement to matters of genuine public safety. Proposition 19 is California's exit strategy from its failed war on marijuana."

"Patrol and narcotics police face enormous pressure to meet arrest and ticket quotas. Marijuana arrests are a relatively safe and easy way to meet them, but they don't reduce serious crime," said Levine. "However, these mass arrests can impact the life chances of young African Americans, who actually consume marijuana at lower rates than young whites."

The release of the report was accompanied by a political bombshell: the endorsement of Proposition 19 by the California NAACP, announced by state chapter head Alice Huffman at a June 29 press conference. Also attending the conference were other prominent black leaders, including Aubry Stone, head of the California Black Chamber of Commerce.

Citing the report, Huffman called ending pot prohibition a civil rights issue. Marijuana prohibition has criminalized many young people and hampered the ability of African-Americans to thrive, she said.

"This is not a war on the drug lords, this is a war against young men and women of color," Huffman told the press conference. "Once a person is arrested and brought under the criminal justice system, he or she is more likely to be caught in the criminal justice system again, further wasting tax dollars."

Not every West Coast African American agrees with Huffman, and one who pointedly doesn't is Bishop Ron Allen, head of the International Faith-Based Coalition, which claims to represent some 4,100 congregations worldwide, and which has emerged as a loud locus of opposition to legalization. Allen's commanding presence and stentorian oratory have become a fixture at the state house whenever marijuana is on the agenda, and he has become a go-to guy for reporters seeking opposition viewpoints. The CA NAACP's endorsement of Prop. 19 has Allen calling for Huffman's political head.

"We would like for Alice Huffman to step down as state president immediately," Bishop Allen told the Chronicle, adding that he was depending on the national NAACP to take action. "We think Alice Huffman is advocating getting the black man high. Let's decriminalize so the black man can continue to smoke without fear of arrest is not the answer. The NAACP is supposed to advance colored people, but how can you do that when you advocate continuing to have an illicit drug in their lives?"

Allen, a self-described former seven-year crack addict, is passionate, but his arguments tend to ring of Reefer Madness and the standard anti-pot playbook. "This isn't the same marijuana. The THC is so much higher," he said.

"Marijuana is still a gateway drug," he continued. "We are seeing more teens enter treatment because of marijuana," he added, neglecting to mention that a majority of them are there because they got busted and were ordered there by a court.

"Legalize a drug, and it will be more accessible to our youth," Allen said. "We will have more drug babies, more murders, more rapes. Legalization will lead to more incarceration of the black man, not less."

And sometimes Allen goes so far as to strain credulity. Attacking Huffman for associating with DPA, he said "you can't be in cahoots with the biggest drug dealers in the nation." Moments later he repeated the outlandish claim, saying "everybody knows the Drug Policy Alliance are drug dealers."

That drew a tart response from DPA's Tommy McDonald. "As someone who's never sold drugs or done hard drugs, I take great exception to Mr. Allen's characterization of Drug Policy Alliance employees and its members. And as a black man, I am particularly disappointed that Allen is doing the bidding of people who would love nothing more than to see our prisons filled with black and Latino youth," he said. "While his conviction is admirable, Allen's irrational and uninformed (and drug war financed, I might add) Reefer Madness propaganda is transparent and predictable. I wish him no ill will, but he might want to stick to the teachings of his Bible and not 'bear false witness against thy neighbor.' I would expect a so-called man of the cloth to know better."

Allen's views may be extreme, but they do reflect those of part of the black community, said Hutchinson. "Many blacks fear legalization could lead to greater drug use, crime and violence," he observed. "Others agree that legalization would do just the opposite."

While Allen declared himself confident Prop. 19 would be defeated in the fall, his role in the eventual outcome will probably be insignificant, said veteran scene-watchers. "I think the Bishop is basically a one-man band," scoffed Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "He's got his church there in Sacramento, and I've only ever encountered him at legislative hearings. I heard him give passionate but ludicrous testimony about how pot should remain illegal because he almost ruined himself with drugs in a market where drugs were illegal."

Gieringer doubted that Bishop Allen would have much impact one way or the other. "His stuff will resonate with his crowd and some religious people, but positions are already fairly fixed. People are either for or against, and the undecided vote is small," he said. "I don't think an angry black preacher is going to have much impact on them."

Will California's black population support Prop. 19? We will find out on Election Day, but the Bishop Allen notwithstanding, support for marijuana legalization in the community is strong. Whether more of it can be won over to Prop. 19 itself, the next few months will tell the new DPA report and the endorsement by the state NAACP are a good start.

Awesome Police Dept. Teaches Citizens to Flex Their Rights

Dear friends,

You and I are well-trained to refuse certain police requests. But when I was approached by Columbia, MO Police Chief Ken Burton the other month, I was happy to consent.

The Chief called to ask my permission to use 10 Rules for Dealing with Police as part of a department-backed public education campaign to inform the public of their rights. Enthusiastically, I said yes.

Within weeks, a new report was released showing that in 2009 black motorists in Columbia were 127% more likely to be stopped than white motorists. At a public forum hosted by NAACP and other groups concerned about racial profiling, Chief Burton put 10 Rules to work.

The Columbia Daily Tribune editorialized in favor of the event, specifically citing 10 Rules.

State NAACP President Mary Ratliff called the video "a powerful teaching tool for both sides" and urged its wide distribution.

This is quite a coming-together. Ratliff has been critical of police in their confrontations with black people, and police have defended themselves in standoffs typically without a mutually agreeable resolution. The video gives both sides a way to communicate outside the context of a traumatic incident and might help subjects avoid trouble with the police.

The police department deserves credit for taking action to bridge the understanding gap, and Ratliff deserves similar credit for responding positively. This is a big deal, and I commend both parties.

Let’s follow Chief Burton and Mary Ratliff's lead! If you or someone you know has a friendly relationship with your local police chief, why not give them a 10 Rules DVD and a copy of the Daily Tribune editorial? (Enter coupon code "10RULES4COPS" to get $5.00 off your DVD order between now and July 7.)

Let’s create hundreds of police-led screenings across the country!

Sincerely,

Steve

 

 

P.S. If you support this public education work, please consider making a small or large tax-deductible donation online. You may also send a check donation (made out to Flex Your Rights) to P.O. Box 21497, Washington, DC 20009.

Supreme Court Limits Right Against Self-Incrimination

Dear friends,

Flex Your Rights' Associate Director and 10 Rules for Dealing with Police Co-creator Scott Morgan drafted this analysis of yesterday's decision. As is the case with most police-friendly court decisions, the key message is that asserting one's rights is a do-it-yourself job.

---------------------------------- 

The Supreme Court ruled today in Berghuis v. Thompkins that a criminal suspect must specifically invoke the right against self-incrimination in order for constitutional protections to apply.

The case centered around the interrogation of murder suspect Van Chester Thompkins, who remained virtually silent for hours, before giving a few brief responses to police questions. Most significantly, Thompkins answered "yes" when asked, "Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?" The statement was introduced at trial and Thompkins was convicted.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Court held that criminal suspects who do not clearly state their intention to remain silent are presumed to have waived their 5th Amendment rights. Ironically, suspects must literally open their mouths and speak in order for their silence to be legally protected. The new rule will defer to police in cases where the suspect fails to unambiguously assert their right to remain silent.

Naturally, Flex Your Rights is concerned about any retreat from the basic principle that criminal suspects should not be compelled or coerced into incriminating themselves. Today's ruling will undoubtedly create additional challenges for suspects who already understand too little about how their constitutional rights apply during police interrogations.

Fortunately, however, the Berghuis decision leaves intact the best strategy for handling any police interrogation: keeping your mouth shut. Requiring suspects with limited legal knowledge to clearly assert their rights may seem a bit strict, but it's irrelevant if the suspect never says a word to begin with. The point of the 5th Amendment isn't to protect you after you've foolishly incriminated yourself; it's to remind you that you're not obligated to answer police questions in the first place.

Ultimately, the burden is on each of us to understand our rights and use that information to make the best decisions. It's unlikely that any Supreme Court decision will ever change the fact that remaining silent is your best and only strategy if police ask you incriminating questions.

---------------------------------- 

Sincerely,

Steve

How to Keep Getting Flex News Alerts

Dear friends,

It's easy. Click here, and enter your email. If you don't, this will be the second-to-last Flex Your Rights email you'll ever receive.

Why? Next week, I'm migrating our entire list to a new privacy-enhancing "double opt-in" system, which requires you to resubscribe to continue receiving our low-volume alerts (about one per month).

If you don't re-subscribe now, you'll receive one final email next week with the subject "Is this the last Flex Your Rights email you'll ever get?"

So if you want to keep receiving discounts on Flex merchandise, click here. If you want to keep receiving alerts about our latest projects, click here. And if you want to keep up-to-date on how new Supreme Court decisions impact your rights, click here.

If you no longer wish to receive Flex Your Rights emails, simply ignore this and next week's message. Of course, I hope you stay subscribed. And you may also follow Flex on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Sincerely,

Steve

Flex Your Rights Privacy Policy

 

10 Rules for Dealing with Police Now Available Free Online

Dear friends,

Flex Your Rights isn't just about selling DVDs. We do this work to educate communities and defend constitutional rights. No one should miss out. That's why we made our new film 10 Rules for Dealing with Police available for free on YouTube.

Here's how you can spread the word:

  • Share the below links with friends, family, activists and educators. Urge them to pass them on.
  • Send the links to your favorite bloggers and websites, and encourage them to share with their readers.
  • Post the video on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to help it go viral.

Of course, this work isn't possible without your DVD orders and donations. The DVD is still the best way to share 10 Rules with a classroom, if you're hosting a public screening event, or wherever you have an unreliable Internet connection.

Get $5.00 off 10 Rules DVDs between now and April 22. To qualify for the discount, click the green button and enter Coupon Code FLEXLUVSME in the shopping cart.

PART 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmrbNLt7Om8
PART 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKPutNg88bA
PART 3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REJ2RsLp1Kk
PART 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUv3A4hscc0

BTW: If you want to keep receiving Flex Your Rights alerts like these, click here to stay subscribed. We're migrating to our new alert system next week, so you must take action now and opt-in to stay subscribed.

You make this work possible!

Sincerely,

Steve

Flex Your Rights Privacy Policy

Legal and Know Your Rights Event

This event is free and presented by Sensible Colorado. For more information, contact 720-890-4247 or info@sensiblecolorado.org.
Date: 
Wed, 04/21/2010 - 5:30pm - 7:00pm
Location: 
1730 Blake St., Suite 420
Denver, CO 80202
United States

Press Release: Free Premiere of ‘10 Rules for Dealing With Police’ to be held in Washington, D.C. Wednesday

MEDIA ADVISORY                                                                                                                                               

MARCH 23, 2010

Free Premiere of ‘10 Rules for Dealing With Police’ to be held in Washington, D.C. Wednesday

New Film Teaches Viewers How to Make Smart Decisions When Dealing With Police; Speakers To Follow

CONTACT: Mike Meno, MPP assistant director of communications …… 202-905-2030 or mmeno@mpp.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 24, the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., will host a free premiere of the new film “10 Rules for Dealing with Police.” Produced by the nonprofit group Flex Your Rights and funded in part by the Marijuana Policy Project, the new documentary discusses the constitutional rights of citizens and the proper protocol for dealing with police.

         The screening will be followed by comments from Baltimore trial lawyer William “Billy” Murphy, who narrates the film, and retired police detective Neill Franklin, now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Tim Lynch, the director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, will moderate.   

         WHAT: Free premiere screening of documentary film “10 Rules for Dealing with Police.”

         WHERE: Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.

         WHEN: Wednesday, March 24, at noon.

WHO: Flex Your Rights filmmakers, Baltimore trial lawyer William “Billy” Murphy, LEAP representative Neill Franklin, and Tim Lynch of the Cato Institute. 

To watch a 10-minute trailer of “10 Rules,” go to http://flexyourrights.org/

         To register for the event, call 202-789-5229. News media can call Cato at 202-289-5200.

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit www.mppp.org.

####

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

"10 Rules for Dealing with Police" Film Premiere & Webcast

The Washington, DC premiere and live webcast that was cancelled on Feb. 12 has been rescheduled! Flex Your Rights invites you to attend...10 Rules for Dealing with Police FILM PREMIERE! Please join us! A luncheon will follow, and there will be comments from Attorney and 10 Rules Narrator William "Billy" Murphy, Jr. and Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. The event is moderated by Tim Lynch, Director, Project on Criminal Justice, Cato Institute. To register, see: http://www.cato.org/events/100212screening.html
Date: 
Wed, 03/24/2010 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: 
1000 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

10 Rules for Dealing with Police Film Premiere & Webcast

Dear friends:

The Washington, DC premiere and live webcast that was cancelled on Feb. 12 has been rescheduled!

Flex Your Rights invites you to attend...

10 Rules for Dealing with Police

FILM PREMIERE!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Noon

(Luncheon to follow)

Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C.

with comments from

William "Billy" Murphy, Jr.
Attorney and 10 Rules Narrator

and
Neill Franklin
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

moderated by
Tim Lynch
Director, Project on Criminal Justice, Cato Institute

If you can make it, please register now. Seating is limited.

If you can't make it to DC, that's okay. You can visit this page to watch the live event.

If you haven't done so yet, pre-order your 10 Rules DVD today for only $15.00. Orders will ship by March 23. (Check out the sexy 2-minute video preview.)

Sincerely,

Steve

 

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Bad cops, bad cops, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Although the Chronicle took a week off last week, corrupt cops didn't. Here are two weeks' worth of rogues and villains. Let's get to it:

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/evidenceroom2-small.jpg
evidence room of opportunity
In Providence, Rhode Island, three Providence police officers were arrested March 4 on charges they helped in a cocaine-dealing operation. Narcotics Detective Joseph Colanduono, Sergeant Steven Gonsalves, and Patrolman Robert Hamlin have been suspended without pay. The trio went down after a four-month investigation whose primary target was Hamlin's brother, Albert, who is described as a major cocaine dealer. Robert Hamlin, a school resource officer at a Providence high school, is accused of helping his brother avoid arrest by giving him the names of narcotics detectives and descriptions of their cars. Hamlin is charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine, while Gonsalves is charged with soliciting another to commit a crime and Colanduono is charged with conspiracy to deal cocaine and compounding and concealing a felony.

In San Francisco, drug cases are being dismissed after a police department crime lab tech admitted stealing cocaine being tested there. Debbie Madden, 60, who recently retired from the job, is accused of stealing small amounts of cocaine from evidence containers, but she has not been charged yet. San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon announced this week that the crime lab's drug testing was temporarily suspended pending an internal investigation and an outside audit of the lab. Twelve cases involving evidence tested or reviewed by Madden were dismissed Wednesday morning, and many more could follow. Local news reports Thursday night put the number of cases dismissed at "near 100." New drug cases may also be dismissed because the evidence will have to be sent to outside labs and will not be returned within the 48 hours required for the filing of charges.

In Weston, Kansas, a former Weston police officer was charged March 3 with stealing drugs from the police department evidence room. Kyle Zumbrunn, 27, is accused of stealing a controlled substance. He's already behind bars, serving a 16-month sentence for selling drugs to a Kansas Bureau of Investigation undercover agent. The new charge came after an investigation into evidence handling procedures at the Weston police department. After Zumbrunn was originally arrested for selling pills, Weston police did an inventory of their evidence room and discovered 28 morphine tablets, 45 Oxycodone pills, and 37 morphine sulfate pills were missing. Zumbrunn faces up to seven more years in prison if convicted on the latest charges.

In Lubbock,Texas, a former Hockley County Sheriff's deputy was sentenced February 27 to 36 months in federal prison for his role in a massive motorcycle gang methamphetamine operation. Former Officer Jose Quintanilla admitted using his position to supply sensitive law enforcement information to the gang and to deter law enforcement efforts to investigate the ring. Another Hockley County deputy, Gordon Bohannon, pleaded guilty to similar charges in December. He awaits sentencing.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a former Benton Harbor Police narcotics supervisor was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in federal prison for conspiring to violate the civil rights of the residents of Benton Harbor. Bernard Hall, 33, was accused of a pattern of falsifying police reports, committing perjury, falsifying affidavits in support of search warrants, stealing money and property from citizens, and embezzling funds from the police department. Along with former Officer Andrew Thomas Collins, whom he was supposed to be supervising, Hall embarked on a "pervasive pattern of corruption." Collins is already doing 37-months for his role in the rogue operation.

In Crespatown, Pennsylvania, a dietary officer at the Western Correctional Institute was arrested February 12 after attempting to smuggle heroin in for an inmate. The arrest wasn't announced until late last month. Justin Wayne Smith, 27, went down after a drug-detecting dog alerted on his vehicle. During a subsequent search of his vehicle, officers found a balloon containing heroin and a syringe. Smith admitted to using heroin earlier in the day and said he was attempting to smuggle the rest to an inmate. He faces six charges, including intent to distribute, possession and intent to deliver drugs into an area of confinement. Combined, the charges could bring incarceration of more than 30 years and fines in excess of $65,000.

In Baltimore, Maryland, a Baltimore City Detention Officer guard was arrested February 21 for trying to smuggle an ounce of pot and a cell phone in to the prison for an inmate. Officer Shanika Johnson went down when her bag was searched as she arrived at the prison. She admitted being paid $1000 to make the contraband delivery. She is now out on $35,000 bond, with trial set for later this month.

In Oklahoma City, an Oklahoma County jail guard was arrested March 4 on charges he smuggled contraband, including marijuana, into the jail. Detention Officer Okello Adenya, 25, went down after a confidential informant told the sheriff's office Adenya was providing contraband to inmates over a two-month period in December and January. Prison guards recovered tobacco, marijuana, and a cell phone charger. Adenya admitted to the crimes and said he earned $1,100 in bribes for his efforts. He faces three felony counts of bringing and possessing contraband in a prison.

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