Cannabiscrimination: Law Enforcement - News | MERRY JANE
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Cannabiscrimination: Law Enforcement

Blacks are nearly four times more likely to get arrested for possession of cannabis than whites.

by Ben Adams

Cannabis prohibition in America has always been used as a tool for racism- but it's not 1937- it's 2016. So why is law enforcement still targeting minorities? Recent comprehensive data reports that blacks and whites consume cannabis at relatively equal rates- yet blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis.

A cannabis conviction will haunt you a lifetime- and the repercussions go beyond the job market. Cannabis offenders face losing housing and other state-run programs. Most middle-class communities are unaware of the tension that's run rampant in inner city areas. The criminal justice system is selectively targeting African American offenders for cannabis, and the numbers are so staggering they can no longer be ignored.

Cannabis was originally prohibited on a national level some 80 years ago for explicitly racist reasons. Harry Anslinger, the father of cannabis prohibition, claimed "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others." Cannabis prohibition in America is literally built upon Anslinger's racist ideals, and should be repealed for that reason alone.

According to the ACLU, Blacks are “3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person — a disparity that increased 32.7% between 2001 and 2010. It is not surprising that the War on Marijuana, waged with far less fanfare than the earlier phases of the drug war, has gone largely, if not entirely, unnoticed by middle and upper-class white communities.” Soccer moms, safely tucked away in the suburbs, rarely experience racial inequality.

Despite all the dangerous drugs out there, law enforcement is particularly fascinated with cannabis. In 2010, nearly half of all drug arrests in America were for cannabis.

Things heated up when big players like Mark Zuckerberg blasted US cannabis policy with a Facebook post. “US jails hold around 2.4 million people -- about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Blacks and Hispanics are significantly more likely than whites to be arrested for possession and sale of marijuana and to receive a conviction and criminal record, even though the majority of marijuana users are non-Hispanic whites. Almost 40 percent of prisoners are black. More than half the people entering prison live below the poverty line. Our entire society pays the price for an unfair, broken system,” Zuckerberg wrote. Zuckerberg visited prisoners with cannabis convictions in the San Quentin prison to see first-hand what the criminal system is doing.

One solution would be removing unnecessary cannabis penalties altogether. “Making our criminal justice system fairer and more effective is a huge challenge for our country. I’m going to keep learning about this topic, but some things are already clear. We can’t jail our way to a just society, and our current system isn't working,” Zuckerberg added.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed, which was meant to ensure that government institutions couldn't discriminate against a man or woman based on the color of his or her skin. The only trouble is, now it's nearly 50 years later and discrimination still lingers in our society.

“In states with the worst disparities, Blacks were on average over six times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites,” the ACLU wrote. “Such racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small Black populations. Indeed, in over 96% of counties with more than 30,000 people in which at least 2% of the residents are Black, Blacks are arrested at higher rates than whites for marijuana possession.”

It's time to toss out cannabis prohibition. The cannabis policy in America was, and is still, a racially-driven and corrupt institution.


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Benjamin Adams is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a slew of publications including CULTURE, Cannabis Now Magazine and The 420 Book and Vice. Follow Ben on Twitter @BenBot11 and Facebook @byBenBot.



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