Al Calloway_FCUnfortunately, with merely an exception or two, Florida’s black leaders have done it again: run away from an important issue of our time that may have a direct effect on black communities throughout the state. Constitutional Amendment No. 2 on the November 4th General Election ballot calls for a yes or no vote on the “Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions.” What does that amendment mean, really?

Does a yes vote for this amendment open the floodgates for “pot shops” and growers as it has in California, Colorado, and other states where “medicinal marijuana” has been approved? Does the Florida public really understand the amendment? Except for the Urban League of Greater Miami, led by T. Willard Fair, what other black leader is known to have held educational workshops and community forums on this issue in Miami-Dade County?

Fair has gone on record stating that Amendment 2 “Would have a negative impact on public safety for our residents.” He says the amendment “is a threat to African-American children and their pursuit of educational excellence – I will not vote to legalize the street drug marijuana, label it medicine and make it available to anyone, at any age, for any condition.”

The Obama Administration opposes the legalization of marijuana as does the 20,000 doctors who are members of the Florida Medical Association. The Rev. Dr. O’Neal Dozier, Senior Pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center Church in Pompano Beach, who is also an attorney, has not only educated his congregation, but reached out to the wider community, including the black press, urging a no vote on the spurious Amendment 2.

“I support efforts to help those suffering from real debilitating illnesses,” wrote Dr. Dozier in an October 9th South Florida Times Op-Ed article, “but Amendment 2 goes far beyond that worthy cause. It is nothing more than a ‘smoking gun’ evidence of a back door attempt to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Florida.”

I surmise, with abundant certitude, that black people are used to, that is, “conditioned” to, being told what to do – it’s the lead sheep syndrome. So, black leaders tend to not invest time and effort in attempting to educate their constituents. Quick results are obtained from just giving the people directions, instead of engendering transformation. Therefore, black communities grow staid, the result of a lack of hard work by so-called leaders.

A recent flyer stuck in the doors of Broward County’s black voters’ homes or apartments makes my point. It is ostensibly from the Broward Black Elected Officials (BBEO) for the Countywide Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort. On the front side are color photographs of 43 of the 44 black elected officials of Broward County, with other omissions being black sitting judges who are not on the November 4th ballot.

The flyer urges people to vote. On the backside it instructs voters on who and what to vote for or against. It tells black people to vote yes for Amendment 2. Imagine that! First of all, did you know that, minus black judges, there are more than 40 other black elected officials in Broward County?

Secondly, do you know how many elected and church leaders have held workshops or otherwise educated the public on the pros and cons of Amendment 2, or any other item on the ballot? So, presumably, with scant, if any, communication between Broward’s black elected officials and their combined constituents, leaders have decided how black people should vote!

It is a moral imperative that all black leaders reshape their modus operandi and “come to Jesus” as the saying goes. This is the 21st Century and the nonsense must stop. Leaders are servants of the people, and, therefore, ought to be accountable to the people.

The Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches is also out of line with its support of Amendment 2. Did a majority of NAACP Branches in Florida vote to support Amendment 2? In each instance was the membership properly informed?

Clearly legal marijuana is another negative for black neighborhoods. The silence is stunning. There seems to be no fight left in apparently worn out and/or compromised leaders–what a shame, what a shame.

Al Calloway is a longtime journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle. He is writing a book of essays. He may be reached at