A new study released Friday shows conclusively that in California’s largest cities African-Americans are arrested for marijuana possession at much higher rates that whites. In the 25 cities profiled, African-Americans were arrested at four to 12 times the rate of whites, despite much higher use rates among whites.
This horrifying disparity is one reason Proposition 19 has earned the support of civil rights groups, including the California NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens of California. These numbers make it clear that removing penalties for marijuana possession would eliminate a tool that has been used to institute a system of pervasive racism in the Golden State. Given that even a single possession charge can result in severe economic and social consequences, the fact that arrests are focused so disproportionately on minority communities is an overwhelming argument for reform on November 2nd.
Some folks disagree, namely the majority of California’s law enforcement community. Several law enforcement groups have given large sums of money to the campaign against Proposition 19, the most recent being the California Police Chiefs Association, who donated $20,000 to No on Prop. 19.
Throughout the public debates on this issue, law enforcement groups (other than those backing Prop 19) have said that reformers need to prove why marijuana should not be illegal. It seems much more reasonable to expect the burden of proof to be on the other side, especially when marijuana prohibition results in such obvious racial persecution. Yet law enforcement does not rise to this challenge, probably because there is no justification for such practices in a civilized society.
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Could it be that some California cops actually like targeting minorities?
If Proposition 19 passes, they will lose their easiest way to do so.
Interestingly, the largest law enforcement group supporting Proposition 19 is…