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Marijuana and Racial Inequality
Posted by CN Staff on April 20, 2011 at 15:27:05 PT
By Natasha Lennard
Source: Salon
USA -- April 20 (4/20) -- the date unofficially recognized nationwide as marijuana day -- is probably as good a time as any to explore how marijuana arrests in the Unites States exemplify racially skewed policing tactics."Young black people are arrested at seven times the rate of young white people for marijuana. But every government survey on this has shown that young white people use marijuana more than blacks or Latinos," Harry G. Levine, professor of sociology at Queens College, City University of New York, told Salon.
A survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for example, showed that among people aged 18 to 25, the percentage of whites who had used marijuana in their lifetime was around ten percent points higher than the percentage of blacks. Similarly, more young whites had used marijuana within a month of answering the survey than had young black people.Levine, who has extensively researched racial-bias in marijuana arrests, explained that drug laws are not discriminatory, "itís the enforcement thatís skewed."In all major cities and counties across the country, Levine said, police are overwhelmingly deployed to low-income neighborhoods, which are overwhelmingly black and Latino. They are sent out to fill quotas (the potentially dangerous effect of which was well documented by a Village Voice investigation last year into a Brooklyn police precinct) and quota demands mean that, as Levine put it, "the bulk of police activity is generated over very petty offences, like marijuana possession."A California-focused report Levine helped produce for The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) in 2010 called "Targeting Blacks for Marijuana" argued that racially-biased arrest numbersare not largely a result of personal racism on the part of individual police officers, but rather that there is ďa system-wide phenomenon,Ē occurring in every county and nearly every police department in California, New York and elsewhere."The mistake I see in the mainstream press is talking about 'bad apple' police," Levine told Salon. "They love bad apples. But everyday in New York, for example, there are 100 marijuana arrests, which are overwhelmingly of black people... It doesnít make sense to talk about bad apples."In many states, including New York, Ohio, Oregon, Maine, California and more, marijuana possession is not illegal. Crucially, however, even in such states, being caught possessing even one joint can have devastating consequences.In California, for example, people arrested for marijuana possession are only charged with a misdemeanor (usually for violating section 11357 of the California Health and Safety Code), but these misdemeanors are nonetheless legally "crimes" and produce criminal records.Such records are nearly impossible to expunge and are almost always checked by employers and often landlords."For young, low-income African Americans and Latinos -- who use marijuana less than young whites, and who already face numerous barriers and hurdles -- a criminal record for the "drug crime" of marijuana possession can seriously harm their life chances. Some officials, such as U.S. Representatives Steve Cohen and Sheila Jackson Lee, have termed the stigmatizing effect of criminal records for marijuana possession a modern 'scarlet letter'," the Drug Policy Alliance report noted.The question of what can be done to change this pattern is a difficult one. As Levine put it, marijuana arrests are now "an intrinsic part of policing". He noted that in 2010, one in seven arrests in New York City were marijuana possession arrests and Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Dallas and many other cities have similarly high rates.What is clear, however, is that the media must stop talking about "bad apples" and pay attention to the statistics, which point to a disturbingly widespread racial-bias when it comes to who is punished over marijuana.Newshawk: Dongenero Source: Salon (US Web)Author:  Natasha LennardPublished: April 20, 2011Copyright: 2011 SalonWebsite: http://www.salon.com/Contact: readermail salon.comURL: http://drugsense.org/url/YQql8mz6CannabisNews -- Cannabis Archiveshttp://cannabisnews.com/news/list/cannabis.shtml
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Comment #8 posted by hashcow on April 23, 2011 at 05:24:59 PT
austria
you are right that there are shops selling plants (clones) in austria. you may have as many motherplants or clones as you like, its totally legal. but! this only covers plants which are not in flowering phase.
possession, selling, trafficing or growing of any quantity of cannabis is still illegal
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Comment #7 posted by Celaya on April 21, 2011 at 12:45:25 PT
Sam
That's great about Austria! It seems the closer we move toward re-legalization, the more other countries are shucking off the yoke of the monstrous persecution.We are, indeed, very close. Every person who is able and interested in marijuana reform should plan to go to California, or any other state with re-legalization initiatives next year, and join in the effort. Every little bit helps, and this may be their last chance to really make a difference! Once one state re-legalizes, it's all over.
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Comment #6 posted by Sam Adams on April 21, 2011 at 10:41:28 PT
cali
thank you celaya, I was just about to same thing! we're moving forward quickly know, hard for these journalists to keep up.I just found out that Austria has basically legalized - they have legal shops selling plants! Very cool.
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Comment #5 posted by Celaya on April 20, 2011 at 22:12:18 PT
Whoops!
The author hasn't kept up. She says:"In California, for example, people arrested for marijuana possession are only charged with a misdemeanor (usually for violating section 11357 of the California Health and Safety Code), but these misdemeanors are nonetheless legally "crimes" and produce criminal records."This was true until January 1 of this year. On that day, simple possession of small amounts went from a misdemeanor to an "infraction" - removing the "criminal" record. This ONLY happened because the great support for 19 was at 52%, so Schwarzenegger was forced into making this concession to steal Prop 19's thunder. It worked, but this is such a tremendous advance for reform, there is no way the iniative can be said to have failed.I'd bet the farm Californians will re-legalize marijuana next year, and perhaps a few other states. Most of the rest of the states, and the feds will follow soon after. Congratulations everyone! 
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 20, 2011 at 18:46:46 PT
HempWorld
Yes we are winning. It's been a long hard road but what a journey it has been.
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Comment #3 posted by HempWorld on April 20, 2011 at 18:42:02 PT
You too FoM!
Greetings and joy, we are winning!
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on April 20, 2011 at 18:39:13 PT
HempWorld
I agree. Happy 4/20 to you. 
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Comment #1 posted by HempWorld on April 20, 2011 at 18:31:32 PT
Exactly!
This is how possession of marijuana has always been used by the police; to harrass and arrest people who are not white. A practice that was started in 1914 in Texas against Mexican immigrants. Sound familiar?
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