Racial disparities and other social justice issues are a big part of the reason I have advocated both personally and professionally for cannabis policy reform. I grew up in St. Louis and had many black friends from the city, as I was in the throws of desegregation at the time. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I realized the amount of adversity that my friends of color had to overcome, and I noticed this particularly in the area of drug related arrests.
Racial disparities in marijuana arrests was a huge point made in Oregon in 2014 by the YES on Measure 91 Campaign as well, and the campaign worked closely with the ACLU on just that. One strong point that was made regarding this issue was the fact that blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates, but blacks are more likely – in Oregon, roughly two times as likely – to be cited or arrested for marijuana than are whites.
There is evidence that this trend is only continuing, and some new numbers coming from the State of Virginia prove just that.
According to the Suffolk News-Herald,
“Statistically, African-Americans are more than six times as likely as whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana in Hanover County [Virginia].
That is an extreme example of a pattern throughout Virginia, including in Suffolk: Statewide, blacks are about three times as likely as whites to be arrested on marijuana charges, according to a Capital News Service analysis of data from the Virginia State Police.
The analysis looked at records on more than 160,000 arrests by local and state law enforcement agencies from 2010 through 2016. It found that the racial disparity in marijuana arrest rates has increased through the years.
In 2010, the arrest rate for blacks was 2.9 times the arrest rate for whites; in 2016, blacks were 3.2 times as likely as whites to be arrested on marijuana charges.
The statistics suggest that in many localities, the enforcement of marijuana laws has a disproportionate impact on African-Americans, even though studies show that blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly the same rates.”
This is a trend that needs to be reversed, and federal legalization and regulation would help do just that.