Jul 30, 2011

Drug Policy Reform: NAACP calls for end to "war on drugs"

AP /CBS: NAACP calls for end to "war on drugs": The NAACP on Tuesday passed what it called a "historic" resolution calling for an end to the war on drugs.

The resolution comes as world leaders are taking a hard look at the 40-year "war," and also as new data shows widened racial disparities within the U.S.

"Today the NAACP has taken a major step towards equity, justice and effective law enforcement," NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said in a statement Monday. The resolution was approved by delegates at the annual NAACP convention in Los Angeles. "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 NAACP noted that African Americans are 13 times more likely to go to jail for the same drug-related offense than their white counterparts. The resolution endorses the expansion of rehabilitation and treatment programs as an alternative to sending drug offenders to prison. It also endorses the expansion of methadone clinics and other proven treatment protocols.

Robert Rooks, director of the NAACP Criminal Justice Program, said in a statement that the war on drugs has created "a system of racial disparities that rivals Jim Crow policies of the 1960's."

Last year, noting the racial disparities in drug policy enforcement, the NAACP's California chapter backed Proposition 19, the failed ballot measure that would have legalized marijuana use in California.

Last month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy also urged governments to end the criminalization of marijuana. The 19-member commission -- which included former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Schultz, and former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia -- called the global war on drugs a failure. CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson reported that the federal drug control budget has grown substantially in the past four decades to more than $15 billion a year.

Once the NAACP's board of directors ratifies the resolution in October, the organization will encourage its 1,200 chapters to organize campaigns to advocate for the end to the war on drugs.

The NAACP approved its resolution on the same day new Census data showed that the "wealth gaps" between whites, blacks and Hispanics are the widest they've been since the government started keeping track 25 years ago.

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