SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The president of the NAACP's California chapter said Wednesday she will not falter in her support of an initiative to legalize marijuana despite criticism from some religious leaders who have called on her to resign her post at the civil rights organization.
Alice Huffman said she would not step down and reasserted her position that Proposition 19 would be a good first step in reforming marijuana laws.
"The issue of Prop. 19 is not about me," Huffman said in a conference call with reporters. "Prop. 19 is about eliminating enforcement practices that are targeting and creating a permanent underclass ... of African-Americans."
She cited statistics she said showed the arrest rate among blacks for low-level marijuana crimes far exceed those of whites in the state's largest counties.
Huffman's remarks came in response to criticism from Sacramento preacher Ron Allen and members of his International Faith-Based Coalition who oppose the proposition.
The November ballot initiative would let adults possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. Residents could legally grow small marijuana gardens, and individual cities and counties would decide whether to allow marijuana sales.
Earlier Wednesday, Allen held a news conference at the state Capitol calling on Huffman to resign and blasting the state chapter for endorsing the initiative.
Allen says the NAACP's support of Prop. 19 disregards the harm illicit drugs cause to the black community. He also accused Huffman of backing the initiative because of alleged financial ties to the marijuana lobby.
Allen said in a July 1 news release that Huffman was "bought and paid for by the highest bidder," billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who has bankrolled medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization measures across the country.
Huffman denied the accusation but said she would not turn down Soros' money if offered.
"I would not reject his money because I think he puts his money into progressive causes," she said. "We do not have one penny of Soros' money in this endeavor. I saw that charge before, and I think it's a ludicrous charge."
Huffman said the national NAACP has accepted contributions from Soros but the money was not for drug policy work.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.