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Buffalo/Western New York: Blacks Disproportionately Arrested For Minor Marijuana Offenses

  • 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.

    9 Responses to “Buffalo/Western New York: Blacks Disproportionately Arrested For Minor Marijuana Offenses”

    1. Mark Mitcham says:

      I am Mestizo, followed by European, Mediterranean, and Arabic. But in America, I will always be White.

      I was raised White. And so, in my youth, like many young white stoners, I did not fully appreciate the fact and significance of the racial disparities in arrest and incarceration rates that define marijuana prohibition. It was something I had to learn; namely, that, as bad and risky as marijuana prohibition was for me, the risks were many times worse for a black dude doing exactly the same thing.

      Marijuana prohibition is racist. Now I know. Now we know.

      Marijuana itself means a great many different things to a variety of people. For some it’s medicine; for some, it’s spiritual; for some, it’s a party. And so on.

      But marijuana prohibition is about none of those things. Marijuana prohibition is about money and power, and it is a cudgel that white power uses against the black community.

      True, whites get caught up in the arrests as well; but look at the stats — your odds will always be better being white, at every stage of the process.

      I have a feeling that black stoners kinda knew this stuff, all along.

      Now here comes Trump, an open white supremacist and bigot. He appoints Sessions as AG. Sessions is a bigot’s bigot. Trump and Sessions both hate marijuana, and both hate blacks. In fact, they hate America. They have rejected Democracy itself.

      I still say a crackdown is coming. Trump admires Duterte’s approach to marijuana prohibition: large-scale gangland executions. I expected it before now, frankly. Does the Trump administration really let a little thing like “the law” get in the way? Fuck no.

      Let us not be complacent.

    2. Julian says:

      Racism is ALWAYS about the aquisition of other people’s property. Marijuana prohibition is just another example of this fact.

      Nice to see another organization pulling the data together besides the ACLU. This is the evidence we need to prove why minorities who have been disproportionately incarcerated for small possessions of marijuana deserve state programs that help them participate in dispensary ownership.

      Of course then “white” people like me will be filling out applications claiming my 1/64th African American heritage as if it had anything to do with me getting arrested with possession of marijuana when the cops caught me skinny dipping on private property down by the lake when I was 21. Which just proves my original point.

    3. Julian says:

      https://www.alternet.org/drugs/pennsylvania-cops-abuse-elederly-couple-marijuana-plants-raid?akid=16372.2366751.SAMpIJ&rd=1&src=newsletter1085408&t=10

      Ok, seriously Paul, did you know about this raid on two unsuspecting people in Buffalo Township Pennsylvania arrested for hibiscus plants when you wrote this blog?

      This is Trump and Sessions’ crack down on marijuana? The Kramers, 66 and 67 with no prior criminal record getting cuffed in underwear for hours while agents figure out flowering hibiscus is not marijuana? Do we need to give the cops some hibiscus tea while we cut their funding?

      And whats with the goofy pictures of backyard hiniscus from the insurance agent irroneously and deceitfully reporting to law enforcement the Kramers had marijuana?

      So insurance is in on the kickbacks from drug agencies? Not surprising, but the money trail needs to be brought up in the Kramer’s lawsuit. I won’t suggest they should martyr themselves into a Constitutional appeal against drug war kickbacks to insurance companies; the Kramers deserve compensation for their traumatic ordeal. (Or at least some new underpants!) But awarding damages based on the unconstitutionality of these kickbacks… which surely exist… can at least set a precedent to insurance companies to stop using our money to take our liberties away for their own personal profit.

      Private Insurance collusion with drug war grants and kickbacks are just one reason why were not already federally legalizing like Canada, who has universal health care. It’s time to expose these worms to some disinfecting judicial sunlight.

    4. Victor says:

      I don’t think this is limited to the plant, as everywhere I look it seems as if non-whites are harassed more often by law enforcement across the country. Take the recent joint investigation by The Florida Times-Union and ProPublica which found that blacks are more likely to receive pedestrian citations than whites in Jacksonville, Florida. It seems as if this is the trend across the nation: law enforcement disproportionately targeting blacks for “crimes” that everyone commits. Talk about frustrated. What a gross misuse of the American justice system.

      • Dain Bramage says:

        @ Victor,
        True, racism is not limited to marijuana prohibition; but still marijuana prohibition is inherently, fundamentally racist, because it systematically disenfranchises minority communities through loss of voter rights, through forfeitures, prison time, and being fucking shot on sight!

      • Julian says:

        Too true, Victor. But I think were revealing our whiteness… no black person I know would be shocked by this news. Their perceived shock would be more of the Chris Rock/Dave Chapelle reaction to the surprised white liberals in the room after Trump’s election on SNL. “Oh my God, America is racist!” Says the blonde white male in the back who subsequently chuggs his white wine.
        Even President Obama admitted to being followed in retail stores by security before becoming famous.

        If anything good has cone from this racist coup from the Republican Party is the slow, progressive majority national recognition that we’re all prejiduced… it’s just a question of whether we continue to allow our laws to descriminate, and how we raise our children.

    5. Julian says:

      Republicans like Roy Moore think marijuana is bad and have no problem throwing away the key when poor Alabamians get busted with small marijuana possession… unless of course it’s his spoiled son right off the set of American Pie caught with marijuana possession…

      http://youtu.be/Z_mqiQ_-Vw8

      (9th arrest, 3 DUI’s, but whose counting?)

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