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California: Marijuana Infraction Enforcement Nearly 4 Times As Severe For Blacks


marijuana prohibitionNew data analyses conducted by the Drug Policy Alliance and ACLU of California find that racial disparities in marijuana policing have persisted, following the reduction of low-level marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction in 2011. Possession of under an ounce of marijuana is punishable in California by a base fine up to $100 (plus substantial fees).

Despite marijuana usage rates being similar across racial and ethnic lines, data provided by the Los Angeles and Fresno Police Departments show that black and Latino people in those cities were issued marijuana possession citations at higher rates than white people in the years immediately following the penalty change from misdemeanor to infraction. The data also reveal that marijuana possession enforcement falls mostly on young people. In both cities, the majority of infractions were issued to persons 29 years of age and younger.

In both cities black people are issued marijuana possession infractions at nearly 4 times the rate of white people and Latinos are cited at nearly 1.5 times the rate of white people. In Los Angeles, approximately 1 in 532 black people are cited for a marijuana possession infraction as compared to 1 in 1,351 Latinos and 1 in 1,923 white people. The numbers are even more stark in Fresno, where approximately 1 out of every 200 black people are issued marijuana infractions as compared to 1 in 457 Latinos and 1 in 800 white people.

“Racial disparities in marijuana enforcement are widespread and longstanding. Los Angeles and Fresno are very different places; yet they reveal similar disparities. It’s likely that young black and Latino Californians experience these disparities statewide,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, Criminal Justice and Drug Policy director for the ACLU of California. “A $100 citation can easily become several times that, after all the fees are added. This presents a significant burden for young people and low-income families.”

“It is disappointing to see that even at the level of infractions, California law enforcement are incapable of applying the law equally across racial lines,” said Alice Huffman, president of the CA-Hawaii NAACP. “I am hopeful that full legalization as proposed in the Adult Use of Marijuana Act will drastically reduce the numbers of young people of color being funneled into the criminal justice system for minor drug offenses.”

In November 2016, Californians will have the chance to vote for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). Voting for the AUMA will not only regulate the marijuana industry in the state but will also remove marijuana possession penalties both prospectively and retroactively for adults. For youth, these penalties will be replaced with drug treatment and education in an effort to reduce the harms associated with criminal justice involvement at an early age.

“While many may believe that marijuana is already legal in California, these data show that young adults of color continue to experience hugely disproportionate enforcement,” said Amanda Reiman, manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The only way to begin to unravel this legacy of disparate enforcement is to move marijuana into a fully regulated market at the statewide level.”

Drug Policy Alliance Fact Sheet:
Why is Marijuana Decriminalization Not Enough?

Drug Policy Action Fact Sheet:
AUMA Advances Social Justice and Criminal Justice Reform


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Johnny Green


  1. Savior of the Golden Goddesses on

    This article is misleading. Blacks were indeed cited 4 times higher – but what it doesn’t say is that the citation was the result of the blacks being arrested for a non marijuana offense and during the process the cops found weed on them. That’s the same with the hispanic arrests but to a lessor degree. – In other words, if the non-whites didn’t commit other crimes to such a vastly greater degree, the cops would not have found weed on them. – The crime statistics for blacks are virtually the same in all other countries so you really can’t blame it on some white guy who owned slaves in America 300 years ago. Facts are not racist, this article is making a racial argument, a racial response is appropriate.

  2. Too true.. as a white guy in SF I’ve been ticketed for smoking A CIGARETTE at a bus stop. Cops here really arent rascist ( yes Im sure the trolls will find the exception). If they can spot a cigarette during rush hour, then all these “niggas” are simply making their job too easy with their > +gram blunts.

  3. The PC boys will not be able to explain why mostly blacks are being cited and arrested under public smoking laws under legalization, that are going to be more criminal than this silly $100 fine, lol.

  4. And just admit it, most blacks are still rolling up blunts smoking them out on the sidewalk and also while they’re driving. It’s why they get caught, it’s because of their marijuana culture and has nothing to do with cops looking to target blacks. Go outside and smoke a blunt around cops if you’re a white guy in CA and see what happens.

  5. This is honestly why people don’t care about legalization as much who are on the fence, because they hear statistics like these and laugh.

  6. Who honestly cares, you don’t even get a failure to appear charge if the fine amounts to less than $101 dollars, so the infraction charge is always worthless. This is just more liberal boo hoo black lives matter minority rights BS.

  7. That’s bullshit discrimination. Its there human right too, no matter what race someone is.

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