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African-Americans

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 28, 2018

    Cannabis PenaltiesNew York City police are continuing to disproportionately arrest African Americans and Latinos for minor marijuana possession violations, despite ongoing pledges from Mayor Bill de Blasio to halt the practice.

    In 2017, city police made an estimated 17,500 arrests for marijuana possession in the 5th degree — a class B misdemeanor. Consistent with past years, 86 percent percent of those arrested were either Black or Hispanic.

    Since the de Blasio administration took office in 2014, city police have made over 75,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests; 86 percent of arrestees were either Black or Latino.

    Under state law, the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is a non-arrestable offense, except instances where the police contend that the substance was either being burned or was in public view.

    During his mayoral campaign, de Blasio said that the city’s elevated marijuana arrest totals “demonstrate clear racial bias” and promised to “direct the NYPD to stop these misguided prosecutions.”

    Despite consuming cannabis at rates comparable to whites, recent analyses of marijuana arrest data from multiple states find that African Americans are consistently arrested for marijuana possession offenses at at least three times the rate of Caucasians.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 15, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesAfrican Americans in the city of Buffalo (population 257,000) are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana possession offenses, according to an analysis of arrest data by the advocacy group Partnership for the Public Good.

    Researchers evaluated marijuana arrest data for Erie County, New York for the years 2012 to 2016. Countywide, blacks comprised 71 percent of all low-level marijuana offenders, despite comprising only 13.5 percent of the population. In the city of Buffalo, 86 percent of those arrested for minor marijuana possession violations were either African American (80 percent) or Hispanic (six percent). Blacks and Hispanic represent fewer than 50 percent of the city’s population.

    “[T]he disparities in the number of marijuana possession arrests cannot be explained by a higher use among black or Hispanic people,” authors concluded. “Legalizing marijuana would reduce low-level drug arrests by ten percent, and help reduce racial disparities in overall arrest numbers.”

    Recent analyses from other states, such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, have similarly identified racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests. Nationwide, African Americans are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, despite members of both ethnicities using the substance at similar rates.

    Full text of the report, “Advancing Racial Equity and Public Health: Smarter Marijuana Laws in Western New York,” appears online here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director November 28, 2011

    The award-winning (and totally watchable) Vanguard series from Current TV examines Cannabis Prohibition in America tonight at 9PM (eastern) in ‘The War on Weed’ with not only an obligatory review* of western states’ medical cannabis laws (including California, Colorado and Washington), but, more notable for NORML, is the documentary’s critical review and juxtaposition to the western United States ongoing experiment with allowing medical access to cannabis–and the general cultural and political acceptance for cannabis in most of the western states–to that of the decidedly anti-cannabis attitudes and law enforcement practices for decades in supposedly ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ New York City, where 50,000 cannabis consumers a year are arrested, about ninety percent black and Latino.

    *Obligatory, because starting at 10PM (eastern) on December 1st is the Discovery Channel’s Weed Wars, a new series that looks at the fine legal line between compassion and big commerce regarding California’s medical cannabis industry.

    Contrastingly, Discovery Channel is also premiering that same week a new series called Moonshiners.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 22, 2010

    From 2006 to 2008, African Americans were arrested for marijuana possession offenses in California’s 25 largest cities at at four, five, six, seven and even twelve times the rate of whites, according to a report released today by researchers at the Queens College, City University of New York and Shenandoah University in Virginia.

    Among some of the California cities profiled:

    * The City of Los Angeles, with ten percent of California’s population, arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.

    * San Diego, the second largest city in California, arrested blacks for marijuana possession at nearly six times the rate of whites.

    * In Pasadena, blacks are 11% of the population but 49% of the people arrested for marijuana possession. Pasadena arrested blacks at twelve and a half times the rate of whites.

    * In Sacramento, the state capitol, blacks are 14% of the city’s population but more than 51% of all the people arrested for possessing marijuana.

    * San Jose, the third largest city in California, is only 2.9% African American. But San Jose arrested blacks for marijuana possession at more than five times the rate of whites. San Jose arrested 619 blacks per 100,000 blacks compared to 121 whites per 100,000 whites.

    * The City of Torrance, with a population of 140,000, had the highest racial disparity of the 25 cities. Blacks are only 2% of the population but they made up almost 24% of the people arrested for marijuana possession. Torrance arrested blacks at over thirteen times the rate for whites.

    These racially-biased marijuana arrests were a system-wide phenomenon, occurring in every county and nearly every police department in California,” the report states. “The substantial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates of whites and blacks cannot be explained by their patterns of marijuana use. … U.S. government studies consistently find that young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.”

    From 1990 through 2009, police departments in California made 850,000 criminal prosecutions for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and half a million marijuana possession prosecutions in the last ten years, the report found.

    Today’s report is a follow up to a June 2010 study commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance which determined that from 2004 through 2008, in every one of the 25 largest counties in California, African Americans were arrested for marijuana possession at double or triple the rates of whites.

    Full text of today’s study, “Arresting Blacks for Marijuana in California Possession — Arrests in 25 Cities, 2006-08,” is available online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 29, 2010

    The California NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) today expressed its “unconditional support” for The Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Initiative 2010, which will appear on the November statewide ballot.

    The measure, also known as Proposition 19, would allow adults 21 years or older to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. It would also permit local governments the option to authorize the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis to adults. Personal marijuana cultivation or not-for-profit sales of marijuana would not be taxed under the measure.

    The California NAACP announced its endorsement of the measure at a news conference in Sacramento this morning. The press conference coincided with the release of a report finding that African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession offenses in California’s 25 largest counties at more than twice the rates of Caucasians.

    “Young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites. Yet from 2004 through 2008, in every one of the 25 largest counties in California, blacks were arrested for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites, typically at double, triple or even quadruple the rate of whites,” the report concluded. “[B]acks were arrested for simple marijuana possession far out of proportion to their percentage in the total population of the counties. In the 25 largest counties as a whole, blacks are 7% of the population but 20% of the people arrested for possessing marijuana.

    Statewide, authors reported that in 2008 African Americans and Latinos combined comprised less than 44% of the state’s population, but together constituted 56% of the people arrested in California for possessing marijuana. An estimated 80 percent of those arrested were age 29 or younger.

    Since 1990, annual marijuana possession arrests of youth of color in California have risen from 3,100 to over 16,000 — an increase that is about three times greater than the group’s population growth.

    Alice Huffman, President of the California State Conference of the NAACP stated: “We have empirical proof that the application of the marijuana laws has been unfairly applied to young people of color. … 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 (depenalize) the [adult] use of marijuana.”

    In 2008, police in California made over 61,000 arrests for marijuana possession offenses, a criminal misdemeanor. Law enforcement made over 17,000 additional arrests for marijuana felony violations – a category that includes personal cultivation of even a single plant.

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