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NAACP Calls for End to War on Drugs

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #694)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has now officially broken with the war on drugs. At its 102nd annual convention in Los Angeles Tuesday, the nation's oldest and largest black advocacy group passed an historic resolution calling for an end to the drug war.

screening of "10 Rules for Dealing with Police," NAACP national conference, July 2010
The title of the resolution pretty much says it all: "A Call to End the War on Drugs, Allocate Funding to Investigate Substance Abuse Treatment, Education, and Opportunities in Communities of Color for A Better Tomorrow."

"Today the NAACP has taken a major step towards equity, justice and effective law enforcement," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.  "These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America."

The resolution noted that the US spends over $40 billion a year to battle against drugs and locks up hundreds of thousands of low-level drug offenders, mostly from communities of color. Blacks are 13 times as likely to be imprisoned for low-level drug offenses as whites, despite using drugs at roughly the same rate as whites, the group noted.

"Studies show that all racial groups abuse drugs at similar rates, but the numbers also show that African Americans, Hispanics and other people of color are stopped, searched, arrested, charged, convicted, and sent to prison for drug-related charges at a much higher rate," said Alice Huffman, President of the California State Conference of the NAACP, which last year endorsed California's Prop 19 marijuana legalization initiative. "This dual system of drug law enforcement that serves to keep African-Americans and other minorities under lock and key and in prison must be exposed and eradicated."

Instead of choking the US criminal justice system with drug offenders, the resolution called for an investment in treatment and prevention programs, including methadone clinics and treatment programs proven effective.

"We know that the war on drugs has been a complete failure because in the forty years that we’ve been waging this war, drug use and abuse has not gone down," said Robert Rooks, director of the NAACP Criminal Justice Program. "The only thing we've accomplished is becoming the world's largest incarcerator, sending people with mental health and addiction issues to prison, and creating a system of racial disparities that rivals Jim Crow policies of the 1960's."

Neill Franklin, an African American former narcotics cop from Baltimore and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, made a presentation about ending the war on drugs to the conference Monday, and had more to say Tuesday.   

"The NAACP has been on the forefront of the struggle for civil rights and social justice in this country for over a century. The fact that these leaders are joining others like the National Black Police Association in calling for an end to the 'war on drugs' should be a wake up call to those politicians - including and especially President Obama - who still have not come to terms with the devastation that the 'drug war' causes in our society and especially in communities of color."

Although passed by delegates to the convention, the resolution must be ratified by the NAACP board of directors in October. Once that happens, the NAACP's 1,200 active units across the country will mobilize to conduct campaigns advocating for the end of the war on drugs.

The African-American community has long suffered the brunt of drug law enforcement in this country, but has proven remarkably resistant to calls to reform our drug policies, in part because it has also suffered the effects of drug abuse. That the nation's leading African-American organization has taken a stand against the drug war is a big deal.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


William Aiken (not verified)



Drug reformers across America should take advantage of this historical announcement by the NAACP by calling their local NAACP chapters and urging their local leadership to invite a LEAP speaker as future guest speaker or to encourage the NAACP to sponsor a debate between LEAP and the pro-drug war opposition. This important  acknowledgement of the drug war's failure and the racial disparity created in our criminal justice system as stated by the National leadership should provide plenty of incentive for the local chapters to book LEAP or other drug reform minded groups. African-Americans need  a venue to address the endless problems in the African-American community associated with drug prohibition and how ending the drug war might solve some of these concerns.

The severity of drug abuse in the African-American community has made it difficult for its leaders to take a position critical of the drug war and there still are opponents such as Bishop Ron Allen in California who vehemently criticizes the NAACP for "Getting into bed with the Legalizers" Bishop Allen even went so far as to call for the resignation of NAACP California Chapter Leader, Alice Huffman for her support of Prop. 19. So it's vital to show support for the NAACP's position as they will no doubt continue to take some heat from their constituents. So Strike while the iron is hot.

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 11:00pm Permalink
maryjanesuncle (not verified)

    Its about time..blacks and minorities suffer more from this unjust law than any one..I take that back..children suffer more when families are torn to bits over minor cannabis use and harsh laws over look logic and punish just for spite

Wed, 07/27/2011 - 7:23am Permalink
1 mom (not verified)

In reply to by maryjanesuncle (not verified)

A lot of the suffering is inflicted on the children whose parents provide for them and are lighthearted, fun, caring, interested in their children's lives. Those children should be left alone to thrive; or as my friend put it "grow like a marijuana plant". The only hindrance to a healthy happy next generation is all the indignities they suffer and the lies they hear about marijuana use when they are removed from loving, capable parents. 

Sun, 07/31/2011 - 10:16pm Permalink
svtyone (not verified)

ha unfortunatly the naacp is the only ones who could get out just cause there for colored people. its racist to believe that black people have it harder than any other race. its a discrace to see america only listening to the immigrants and coloreds but to hell with the white man. the naacp is the most racist organization in the world.

Thu, 07/28/2011 - 7:30pm Permalink
drug war (not verified)


USA and territories. 2,424,279 inmates in 2008. ...   With less than 5% of world population the USA has over 2.4 million of 9.8 million world prisoners. The majority of U.S. inmates are in due to the drug war. The number of inmates in the USA has increased almost 5 times over since 1980. See table.


"Welcome to America, home to 5% of the world's people & 25% of the world's prisoners."
USA. 25% of world's prisoners.jpg

Image info, template, stats, further info. Most are incarcerated due to the drug war.


Fri, 07/29/2011 - 4:21am Permalink
Frank Fulbrook (not verified)

The correct name of our current drug policy is "drug prohibition for all ages." Richard Nixon gave the existing drug policy the nickname "war on drugs" in 1971. But, national drug prohibition began in 1914, with the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act.  Second, there's literally no such thing as a "war on drugs." Do we lock up the drugs? No, we lock up people associated with the drugs.  American drug policy has always been racist. Except for hallucinogen prohibition in 1967, all of our drug prohibition laws have targeted particular non-white people.  My city (Camden, NJ) is being destroyed by drug prohibition. About two-thirds of our murders here are the result of drug prohibition. Most of the murderers are black and most of the victims are also black.  As Eldridge Cleaver said: "If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem." On drug policy, for many years, the NAACP has been more a part of the problem. I'm glad to see they're becoming more a part of the solution.   -- Frank Fulbrook

Fri, 07/29/2011 - 4:46pm Permalink
1 mom (not verified)

You hit the nail on the head. The U. S. does a huge trade in selling our children over minor drug offenses. But I have noticed over the years that the most desirable kids are taken from their parents -- the "adoptable" children. When a very severe case of neglect or abuse involves difficult children the authorities look the other way. Go figure.

Sun, 07/31/2011 - 10:01pm Permalink

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