Black pastors, priests, and other religious leaders have bonded together to fight what they see as a potentially devastating blow to their communities: Proposition 19, the California ballot measure that would tax and regulate marijuana, reports the New York Times. The group has pitted those afraid of more widespread use of the drug versus those who see legalization as “an exit strategy in the war on marijuana.” Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, has been vocal in her support for the measure, casting it as a potential victory for civil rights that could help reduce the number of young black men jailed on marijuana-related offenses.
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. Blacks make up less than 10 percent of the California 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. Backers of Proposition 19 – which is trailing narrowly in a recent Field Poll – are appealing that potential swing bloc. Last week, proponents got what they view as a major endorsement, that of Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the former U.S. surgeon general and the first black to hold that position.