The Mo’Kelly Report

The NAACP: Smoking Blunts While Celebrating W.E.B. DuBois

UPDATE: 2:35pm PDT – Sacramento minister blasts NAACP for public support of controversial marijuana decriminalization measure.

Click HERE.

UPDATE: 2:15pm PDT - Mo’Kelly just received a call from Mr. Hillary O. Shelton Director, NAACP Washington Bureau / Vice President for Advocacy today.  There will be a follow up to this piece as Mr. Shelton was kind enough to elaborate and clarify the position of the national office on this issue.

Hillary Shelton


Black people…don’t fall for the okie doke. Things are what they are, not what they’re often times manipulated to be.

African-Americans…don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe. It’s official, the NAACP (the California chapter at least) has sold its soul. The debate continues as to whether marijuana should be decriminalized and in some ways has taken an unexpected turn with the California chapter of the NAACP coming out in support of decriminalization. Alice Huffman, president of the state conference offered this in justification of the organization’s stance:

“We are joining a growing number of medical professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, local municipalities and approximately 56% of the public in saying that it is time to decriminalize the use of marijuana.”

Don't fall for it...

Huffman also said that prohibition has a taken a “heavy toll,” if not disproportionately so on African-American communities.


Stop right there.

Did you see it? Did you catch that? If you weren’t paying close attention, you might have missed it.

It’s at this point many may fall for the okie doke. It’s at this point others will fall victim to the banana in the tailpipe. The NAACP has the unmitigated gall to suggest that the legalization of marijuana is now a “civil rights” issue…with racial overtones.

A civil liberties issue? Absolutely. A civil rights issue…hell to the naw.

Before anyone starts in on their predictable comparisons of marijuana to alcohol and tobacco, let’s deal with this singular issue before proceeding any further. “Civil liberties” should not be confused with “civil rights.”

Voting is a “civil right.” Rolling a blunt at the crib would be a “civil liberty.”

Don’t confuse the issues.

Presently there is a measure in California that is set to be voted on in November which would allow individuals age 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

The California chapter of the NAACP also cited statistics from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, showing that in 2009, 62% of the state’s marijuana arrests were of nonwhite suspects and that 42% were under 20.

Going further, the NAACP argued that the arrests of African-Americans ranged from double to quadruple that of Whites across the state, although the rates of usage skewed more to Whites.

The NAACP is both very shrewd and sickening; couching this debate within the context of racial inequality. It’s illogical, it’s misguided and ultimately patently offensive. The California chapter of this nation’s oldest civil rights organization has no business leading this parade. It shouldn’t be on any of the floats and shouldn’t even be playing in the band bringing up the rear.

The issue of decriminalizing marijuana is a separate and distinct discussion from the inherent inequities of the criminal justice system. Both are legitimate issues, but not meant to be commingled.

You do not send the NAACP to fight to decriminalize marijuana any more than you would have them fight for Ebonics in the public school system because “African-Americans are faring poorer in English.” You don’t send the NAACP to fight to decriminalize marijuana any more than you would have them fight for the Lotto because African-Americans are disproportionately suffering from poverty. You don’t send the NAACP to fight to decriminalize marijuana any more than you would have them fight to legalize speeding if African-Americans received a disproportionate amount of speeding tickets.

The NAACP walking point in this debate reeks of a political shell game with the aromatic stench of back room deals and lobbyist quid pro quo. All at the expense of the tradition of the Civil Rights Movement.

This is akin to arguing violent crime statistics would go down…if you would just legalize murder. It’s attaching the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

The underlying issue of racial inequality is inextricably linked to the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex. On that we should all agree. If the real issue is the disproportionate number of African-Americans arrested relative to Whites, then the answer is in the disparate enforcement and sentencing guidelines related to the law, not the law itself.

Voting is a “civil right.” Rolling a blunt at the crib would be a “civil liberty.”

Don’t confuse the issues.

I’ll listen to every argument and review every pie chart you have on the dangers of alcohol and how they supersede those of the chronic.

I get it.

I’ll let anyone wax rhapsodic on the documented historical failure of prohibition or the death legacy of cigarettes.

I get it.

Just don’t confuse THESE issues. Compare your alcohol and tobacco “apples”

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

to weed “apples” all day, every single day. Knock yourself out.

But when you start including the civil rights “oranges”…that collective rumbling sound you hear would be W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and dozens of others log rolling in their graves.

“Civil liberties” are not the same as “Civil rights.” They “sound” similar but they are not the same. Civil liberties deal with the supposed excessive government intervention in the private lives of its citizens. Civil rights have to do with the essential tenets of American citizenry, which can not be denied along the lines of race, creed, gender or sexual orientation.

When Whites can roll a blunt, and African-Americans can not…then and ONLY then has this become a civil rights issue. A disparity in arrests is an argument of the thinnest order that such is presently taking place.  Attack the enforcement practices and sentencing guidelines.  Anything else is a ruse.  Don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe.

The NAACP, the nation’s oldest CIVIL RIGHTS organization walking point on the CIVIL LIBERTIES issue of marijuana legalization is a farce and an embarrassment. Let the ACLU do what it does…so the NAACP (in California and beyond) can deal with real CIVIL RIGHTS issues, such as the immigration law in Arizona…for starters.

If the issue is purely statistical in nature, (i.e. the disproportionate arrests of African-Americans in related to marijuana,) then attack enforcement and sentencing guidelines. Attack it in the way that the Senate recently passed a bill to reduce crack-to-cocaine sentencing ratio from 100-1 to 18-1. (Under current law, it takes only five grams of crack cocaine to earn a mandatory minimum five-year federal prison sentence, but 500 grams of powder cocaine to garner the same sentence. )

This is a dishonorable fight by the NAACP, be it a local chapter or national body. It is in the same basket as the aforementioned Ebonics and “saving” the N-Word.

If we as African-Americans allow the battle to legalize marijuana co-opt and misappropriate the legacy and tradition of the Civil Rights movement…

Shame on Us.

In college I had to read Stolen Legacy by George G.M. James. Maybe it’s time to write the sequel, Misappropriated Legacy, turn it into a Reality TV show and put it on BET…with malt liquor commercial breaks.

Shame on Us.

From the Sacramento Bee:

Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said the state NAACP is “the first mainstream civil rights organization to endorse marijuana legalization.

“This represents the expansion of the … alliance of forces across the political spectrum from the progressive left to the libertarian right that agree we have to junk this disastrous prohibition policy,” he said.

Roger Salazar, a Democratic consultant working with “Public Safety Now,” a group opposing the marijuana initiative said the NAACP endorsement is “unusual.”

He added: “Reasonable people can argue about the merits of legalization … But the unintended consequences of this initiative will be a disaster for all California communities.”

The NAACP endorsement isn’t necessarily a harbinger of the African American vote.

In 2008, the organization opposed the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage. But African Americans voted overwhelmingly for the initiative.

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21 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Morris, I don’t know if you noticed, but the bumper above the tailpipe looks a lot like a blunt :-)

And for what it’s worth, this white dude agrees that the NAACP is being intellectually dishonest.

It’s not as though repeal of the marijuana law will cure anybody’s racist tendencies. If they intend to get you, they’ll just find a new reason.

“Scuse me son, can I see your tax stamp?”

Comment by Walt Bennett

OK not a blunt but a fattie…

Comment by Walt Bennett

Interesting perspective, as usual. Mo, your dissertation on the appropriate role of the NAACP in the debate over the legalization issue is spot on in regards to civil liberties vs. civil rights.

The question is is there inequity in regards to the rights of minorities access to and of medicinal marijuana. If this is so (and the disproportinate arrests of non-whites for marijuana possession may indicate a prima facie basis for that very argument) then we would be talking about a justified civil rights issue.

A person being denied the benefits of possession of a medicinal aid that is available to others under the same circumstances, or suppression of access to the same due to racial, demographic or sociological considerations would constitute discrimination.

The medical marijuana subscribers I am familiar with have routinely reported periodically being thwarted from obtaining their prescriptions depending on their jurisdiction’s political climate at the moment.

The argument can be made that legalization would normalize the playing field and help standardize the jurisdicational procurement issue so as to be able to determine if a civil rights violation is occurring if one is denied that which is available to others under the same circumstances and juris prudence.

Comment by Roger Reid


If racism is at the root of the disparity, then won’t Law Enforcement simply move on to the next method of hassling black folk?

I bet more blacks get busted for open containers, too. They get busted for BS stuff that white folks don’t get hassled for as much.

Coming up with one less particular arrestable offense would seem to be smoke and mirrors with regard to the underlying issue, and it would seem that the NAACP is seeking credit for defending black “rights” without actually addressing that root issue.

Comment by Walt Bennett

There is no doubt that the core problem here is the disparity in which the “law” is served.

While I, too, am desirious of the NAACP and similiar civil protection agencies to adamantly oversee the enforcement of the laws that exist and it’s fair and impartial implementation with regards to people of color, I am pragmatic enough to understand that that probably will not foreseeably happen.

As was pointed out, the reasons for legalization of marijuana are myriad. Decriminalization and taxation of marijuana would produce considerable income and the “bottom line” really dictates where the law comes down, particularly with regards to minorities.

When we see the de-privatization of our penal institutions, when we see the profit taken out of maintaining a “serf” underclass, when we see exploitation discontinued of the most valnerable within our society and an adherence to the principles stated in our constitution with regards to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, only then we may we see true and effectual change. Until then, it’s business – AS USUAL.

Comment by Roger Reid

Well we agree on that.

And let me just say: If we see 8 years of Obama and that issue is not squarely addressed as a civil rights issue (i.e.: Large disparities in the racial mix of those arrested/convicted/jailed versus the regional population are DE FACTO discrimination and therefore DE FACTO unconstitutional), that will be a major, major crime.

Let Obama win re-election first, but then, with his political wars behind him, he must squarely face this issue.

Civil Rights Part Three.

We can’t wait much longer.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Is not being discriminated against by the government a civil right or a civil liberty? Cannabis users are being severely discriminated against compared to their alcohol using colleagues, and it violates the spirit of equal protection under the law, a vital civil right. That would be the case if alcohol and marijuana were equally dangerous. Since alcohol is far MORE dangerous than cannabis to life, limb and fetus, we’re talking about a downright perverse discrimination, and flagrant contempt for the spirit of equal protection under the law. And for generations now it’s the black community that has borne the brunt of enforcement.
Yes, I know we have enough problems already with alcohol being legal, what does that have to do with how people behave under the influence of cannabis, other than to make their behavior look very good in comparison? It’s as unfair as it is unwise to ruin the lives of responsible cannabis users because of the crimes of alcohol abusers. And now that push has come to shove on public finances, it’s rather unaffordable too. Let violent criminals out of jail or smalltime cannabis dealers: your choice and your responsibility.

Comment by newageblues

I’m not saying “using marijuana is a civil right” I’m saying “if other people can use the much more deadly alcohol, then preferring marijuana is a civil right”. As far as it being an important civil right, well, alcohol plays an important part in many, many people’s lives …

Comment by newageblues


You just gave the definition of a civil liberty…not a civil right. By definition, what you do in your personal life are civil liberties. What you do as citizens of a country are rights. You have a right to vote, you don’t have a “right” to partake in this substance or that one.

So I understand your point, but you can’t turn marijuana into a civil right. There are plenty arguments against prohibition or rightful comparisons to alcohol and those are different arguments. Such was the debate about healthcare…was it a civil liberty or a right? In other words, are you entitled to it by birthright or up to the individual to use at his/her discretion or to have if their lifestyle can afford it?

Comment by mrmokelly

Your conflating Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is disingenuous compartmentalization.

The fact is that the 1971 created Drug War of Richard Nixon and the Dixie-crats was created to use the liberties people were taking with drugs to deny people their civil rights of freedom and electoral franchise.

The 1971 War on Drugs was not created in a vacuum. It was created to subvert and neutralize the electoral empowerment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the, soon then to be enacted 26st Amendment. Civil Rights.

First, Nixon’s Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, wrote in his diary in 1969, “(President Nixon) emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the Blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognized this while not appearing to.” That was corroborated in an interview with Nixon’s other top aide, John Ehrlichman, in 1996 by Dan Baum in preparation for his book “Smoke and Mirrors.”

During that interview, John Ehrlichman said, “Look, we understood we couldn’t make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure. We understood that drugs were not the health problem we were making them out to be, but it was such a perfect issue for the Nixon White House that we couldn’t resist it.”

Mass incarceration for the purpose criminal disenfranchisement is a Civil rights issue. It is a constitutional issue. It is a democracy issue.

Comment by Pat Rogers

“Mass incarceration for the purpose criminal disenfranchisement is a Civil rights issue. It is a constitutional issue. It is a democracy issue.”

Which isn’t addressed by decriminalizing marijuana. If so, we might as well decriminalize crack. Ultimately (the most important fact which you overlook is) if the policing and enforcement practices haven’t changed, the mass incarceration of African-Americans will not change.

Like I said…attaching the wrong solution to the wrong problem. Nothing is solved. And to your point, do you really think that decriminalizing marijuana means that fewer African-Americans go to jail? You’re saying that’s the only way to put us in jail?

Comment by mrmokelly

TO mrmokelly 07.03.2010 @ 7:16 AM:

I don’t see how the civil rights people are deprived of with marijuana conviction is not addressed with legalization.

The ballot initiative is about marijuana so that is the topic. And yes, all drug sales should be regulated in order to alleviate the constitutional and civil rights abuses of the Drug War policy.

Your right, unless the entire policy is changed the same police abuses will exist. I don’t know why you have to jump into marijuana as an only in the Jim Crow criminal justice system. I never said anything of the sort. I know better. But marijuana arrests are a major factor. It does not address ALL injustice absolutely and unequivocally. It does address one major injustice. One injustice addressed is better than no injustice addressed.

Personally I want the entire Drug War ended. I consider it to be the greatest human rights atrocity in the past forty years. Not the least of which because the Drug War is how America’s right-wing re-invigorated Jim Crow, using the Jim Crow exception to the 13th Amendment, after the Voting Rights Act tried to kick Jim Crow down for good.

Comment by Pat Rogers

“I don’t see how the civil rights people are deprived of with marijuana conviction is not addressed with legalization.”

Very simple. You don’t have a “right” to buy or use drugs. it is a civil liberty issue. And as long as its a civil liberty, let the ACLU do what they do.

One phrase I’ve yet to hear anyone use is “personal responsibility.” There is personal responsibility in this equation. It’s very hard to get arrested for marijuana use or possession if you don’t have or use it. It’s not like on Monday it was criminalized and Tuesday the prison industrial complex went majority Black in its occupants.

It’s not by “luck” I’ve never had a drug charge. You can’t be tricked into selling weed. And everybody who sells or possesses weed knows it’s illegal. Personal responsibility.

Going further, the disparate sentences have to do with DISTRIBUTION, not POSSESSION.

California law is presently:

Possession with intent to sell for benefits such as cash, goods, services or other favors can result in imprisonment in state prison for up to three (3) years and a fine of $10,000.


So it’s not even “possession” that’s really at issue, it’s the QUANTITY involved. You don’t “accidentally” go to jail for marijuana. You have to have it ON YOUR PERSON, IN YOUR CAR, or high while driving. Or in the investigation of some OTHER crime at your house you have it readily identifiable at your house or in your backyard. There is such a thing as the criminal taking responsibility for one’s behavior. These are not people getting arrested ex post facto (arrested for offenses prior to a change in law). These are people acting in defiance of the well-known law.

Don’t change the law just because people don’t have good sense.

Comment by mrmokelly

[…] thinks it's a conspiracy, Big Ced at News One thinks NAACP is stoned, and blogger Mo' Kelly thinks they've lost sight of the distinction between civil rights and civil liberties: The issue of […]

Pingback by Marijuana Legalization is a Civil Rights Issue |

Isn’t it a civil right not to be discriminated against by the government? Alcohol supremacism over cannabis is flagrant and perverse discrimination against users of a clearly safer substance.

Comment by newageblues

To answer your question…alcohol is not perverse discrimination over cannabis. That’s a ridiculous argument for “civil rights.” You have a right to vote, to use any narcotic is a civil liberty. It’s illegal for EVERYONE, so no, it’s not discrimination. You guys are proving my point left and right.

This is like those who say dogfighting is no more inhumane than hunting. That’s neither here nor there. If you dogfight, you’re breaking the law. If you want to fight to change the law…so be it. But don’t try to say it’s “racism” that dogfighting is illegal while hunting in certain forms is not.

Vicodin is “clearly safer” than alcohol…it’s still a controlled substance. Your argument fails. Codeine is “clearly safer” than alcohol…it’s still a controlled substance. You’ve missed the point entirely.

Comment by mrmokelly

If I may dare say, the freedom movement has always been about both civil liberties and civil rights, and the even, unbiased application of both.

All due respect to those who make this point, but it is incorrect to consider “civil rights” something akin to “birthrights”, and to consider “civil liberties” to be akin to “whatever the government lets you do”.

The correct associations would be these: “civil rights” are the rights of citizenship; that you may go where anybody else may go, that you have the same right to vote and to run for office and to live where you choose that anybody else has, and so forth.

Civil liberties are the rights we have as human beings to live as we choose, except where those choices interfere with an orderly society.

In my view, the freedom movement has always been a fight to protect the individual from improper government intrusion on both fronts.

The ‘right’ to smoke marijuana is clearly a civil liberties issue, because the “proof” that such a law is needed to protect orderly society is specious at best and, as noted many times including in this thread, blatantly hypocritical at best.

And to the extent that it gets otherwise perfectly lovely citizens thrown in jail, it is an abject affront and must be repelled.

And of course, it stands to reason that any law which criminalizes innocent, benign behavior will be used in a racist society to disproportionately punish those who are subjected to the racist treatment.

We should all be mindful that the south replaced slavery with involuntary servitude; i.e., prison sentences on trumped up or patently false charges, with the sentence to be served in the minds and fields.

We should be mindful that this device explains much of what we see today.

I am conflicted about the NAACP’s use of this issue. On the one hand it smacks of “please let us be relevant” political opportunism. On the other hand, the issue itself is relevant and needs to be raised.

Perhaps we can overlook the naked politics and get behind the issue, because no matter your skin tone, getting the government off our backs, even a little bit, is something to fight for.

Comment by Walt Bennett

Regarding the above, please note this correction:

“with the sentence to be served in the mines and fields.”

Comment by Walt Bennett

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Comment by Sacramento area handyman

“It’s illegal for EVERYONE, so no, it’s not discrimination. You guys are proving my point left and right.”

It sure as hell is discrimination. It doesn’t matter to alcohol lovers that cannabis is illegal, their lives are legal. And it’s no help to many cannabis users that alcohol is legal, alcohol is nothing to them.

Are you still claiming this stuff?

Comment by newageblues

Thanks for printing my comments.
Alcohol is indisputably far more deadly/maiming than cannabis (check with the Centers for Disease Control statistic keepers) and it’s not discrimination to ruin people’s lives, financially if nothing else, for preferring cannabis? Come on!

Comment by newageblues

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