Friday, August 01, 2014

The war on drugs has become a war on occasional pot smokers of color

Marijuana won’t be legal until the cops stop making millions off weed arrests

Sadhbh Walshe
theguardian.com, Thursday 31 July 2014 07.30 EDT

A few years ago, a young black man named DeMarcus Sanders got pulled over in Waterloo, Iowa, because a cop thought he was playing music too loud. DeMarcus didn’t expect his car to be searched, or to get arrested when the officer discovered a small amount of marijuana. He also didn’t expect to spend 30 days in jail, or to lose his job, his college credits and his driver’s license for six months – or for DeMarcus and his young son to live with the consequences of a criminal record, forever.

Was DeMarcus the architect of his own misfortune? He did get caught breaking the law, after all. Or is he just another American caught up in a system designed to arrest nearly 750,000 people per year at a cost of nearly $10bn to taxpayers – for the crime of possessing a relatively harmless plant while black?

DeMarcus was one of many people featured in an ACLU report from this time last year highlighting the unprecedented escalation in US marijuana arrests during the previous decade. The racial disparity was extraordinary: White people and black people use marijuana at roughly equal rates, but black people are 3.7 times more likely to be criminalized for doing so.

Ever since, the ACLU and many, many others have been calling for an end to the arcane reality that is America’s prohibition of marijuana, which nearly 40% of the US population admit to having tried – and which a majority of Americans now support legalizing. This past week, the New York Times has been pushing the cause with a series of editorials not just calling for a federal repeal of the ban on pot but also, importantly, calling out the injustice of marijuana arrests.

(More here.)

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