Proponents of marijuana reform in California have come out with a new pro-legalization ad, and it includes endorsements from some well-known entertainers.
Snoop Dogg joined Quincy Jones and Too $hort in the video pushing for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act in California. The campaign to enact that initiative has gathered enough signatures to guarantee a spot on the ballot in fall, and recent polls show voters are likely to approve it Nov. 8.
The video comes from the California and Hawaii chapters of the NAACP, groups that have thrown their political support behind legalization. The issue is critical to civil rights groups, as black and Latino Americans are arrested for minor marijuana offenses at much higher rates than whites.
Politicians have long sold the drug war as a way to protect people of color in poor communities, but the video calls the lie to that claim. At nine minutes long, the clip recounts marijuana history in the United States, with its racist policies and authoritarian leaders.
Starting with cannabis prohibition in the 1930s, moving through President Richard Nixon’s drug war of the ’70s, and ending with the crack scare of the ’80s, the video explores how anti-drug efforts have hurt communities of color. Black people are arrested at 10 times the rate of whites, even though both races use the drug at roughly the same rate.
“Ronald Reagan, George Bush, the Republican beatdown — and now you got a city of, like, hopelessness,” rapper Too $hort says in the ad. “You could name a bunch of cities or a bunch of areas that are going through that right now.”
Racial disparities in arrest rates still substantial
Numerous studies, including a landmark report by the ACLU, have documented the racial disparities in arrests for low-end marijuana crimes. Legalization in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia was driven largely by concerns over this racial injustice.
“The war on drugs was a war on African-American kids,” said Alice Huffman, president of the California and Hawaii branches of the NAACP. “I couldn’t believe it, but the facts were there. It was pretty clear that I had had my head in the sand for too long. All the work I was trying to do in the NAACP was not going to ever amount to very much because the segment that we should be serving was the segment that was being targeted by government.”
Long history of racist, anti-drug policies
Snoop notes in the video that the current state of affairs follows a long history of racist anti-drug policies. Those policies have kept many voters, who have the power to enact change, from participating in the process.
“Everybody forgets about the war that was engaged before Obama was in office,” Snoop says. “Now we have reason to vote, and these people that normally wouldn’t vote — their votes definitely make a difference.”
The video explores the sad track record of the war on drugs and the racism that drives it. Marijuana was banned in the 1930s amid widespread stereotypes of its use by Mexican immigrants. Nixon launched the modern war on drugs at the height of racial tensions in the late 1960s. President Ronald Reagan launched a new front in that war in the 1980s, as the nation experienced a crack cocaine scare driven largely by race.