Come November, Californians will have a landmark vote on their hands regarding recreational drug use.
If Proposition 19 passes it will allow residents to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow it in small quantities for personal use.
One of the ballot measure’s supporters is Alice Huffman, head of the state’s NAACP office. In her estimation the disproportionally large number of drug arrests of African-Americans and Hispanics will open the doors for greater social equality in law enforcement. Another key argument in favor of legalization is money, with tax revenues helping to offset the state’s severely underfunded budget.
Bishop Ron Allen, however, sees the issue from the opposite side of the fence both legally and spiritually.
Allen is the head of the International Faith Based Coalition (IFBC) which advocates for greater community involvement and social awareness to stop the flow of drugs. A former drug user himself, Allen is pastor of Greater Solomon Temple Community Church in Oak Park, Calif.
His leadership of the IFBC jells with his overall philosophy.
“We clearly understand that drugs have no religious preference,” Allen said in a telephone interview with Everyday Christian.
Allen has made waves in recent weeks calling for Huffman’s resignation. He has said her claims that pot legalization is a civil rights issue are false and that her leadership is misguided.
“We believe as a civil rights leader one important truth to understand is what causes devastation in the black community and is involved in so many rapes, murders and crimes,” he said.
He claimed that Huffman’s support of the Drug Policy Alliance,which lobbies for legalization, is creating a gateway for other harder drugs to be legalized and too much of a laissez-faire attitude about drugs for teens and young adults.
“We absolutely clearly understand that if you take the fear away from drugs more youth will begin to use,” Allen said. “I am afraid of what will happen. By supporting this, the black community is giving the black man a free pass to use. Of course incarceration is going to up with the poor judgments made when people are high.
“How do you educate an intoxicated mind?”
He would like to see all the time and money being spent on the legalization effort to be used toward bolstering California’s vastly under-resourced education system and isn’t convinced the taxation would make any more of a dent than other sin taxes.
“It is the same point to be made with alcohol and tobacco,” Allen said. “This is blood money. They are going to have to target our youth to get that money, and not even a dime of it is worth it.”
Allen has spoken to and been flanked by police officers at press conferences and feels legalization would layer on additional difficulties for local law enforcement.
And of course he has a spiritual perspective on the matter.
“It is not only a social problem, it is a spiritual and moral problem,” he said. “Every religion always talks about keeping the body and clean and able to function clearly. As pastors we are seeing intoxication in our churches and tabernacles and must stand together regardless of denomination.
“We must push back so our youth can have a future without drug abuse and drug addiction.”