For years, marijuana has been a drug that in the black community started the pipeline to jail. Getting caught possessing or selling pot was the start for many criminal records, or for individuals like singer Whitney Houston part of her gateway to harder drugs like cocaine. However, some black leaders and organizations are shifting their view dramatically. In fall of 2013 with very little national press, the NAACP national board backed a pro-weed bill in congress. The bill is House Bill 1523- Respect State Laws Marijuana Act of 2013 , which in summary states:
“Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013 – Amends the Controlled Substances Act to provide that provisions of such Act related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with state laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.”
However, there is still conflict in the black community about this issue. In Detroit for example, state Sen. Vincent Gregory is running for Congress and is openly pro-marijuana stating, “If we legalize this and tax it, it’s a benefit to all.” Gregory’s position calls for an easing of current laws and as a retired law enforcement officer, which is a big step. While black clergy in the city have opposed legalization in Detroit because of its crime problem and belief that marijuana is a gateway drug to stronger drugs like heroin. Addiction is a big issue in Detroit.
Presiding pastor of the 7,000 member Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Rev. Charles Christian Adams stated, “Those of us in the treatment and prevention community feel marijuana is a gateway drug, that often leads people to use other illicit drugs like heroin, crack, or alcohol.”
Adams is a board member of many prominent drug-abuse programs. However, the fact is most of Detroit is in favor of legalization. In 2012, citizens voted with a 65 percent approval rate to allow those 21 and up to have an ounce of weed in their home or private property. The fight to put this proposal on the ballot took up 2 years in court battles with the city administration against pro-marijuana activists.
Within the nation debate is continues to gain momentum among black leaders regarding the entire approach to the war on drugs. Even President Obama has voiced his support on the decriminalization of pot. The fact however remains that smoking pot puts a person outside of the job force. Despite legalization very few companies of significance will hire a person who smokes pot as long as it remains illegal on the federal level. For black America, the aspects of employment opportunities, addiction risk factors, crime and jail are more significant.