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July 24, 2012 10:04 AM   Subscribe

It's Not Just NYC: Across America, Only Black and Brown People Get Arrested for Pot - "New York City (previously), the pot-bust capital of the Western world, is notorious for the racial skewing (previously) of its marijuana arrests. Over the last 15 years, more than 85 percent of the half-million-plus people charged with misdemeanor possession there have been black or Latino. But the racial ratios of reefer roundups are equally extreme—if not worse—in scores of other U.S. cities." Same (trailer) as it (PDF) ever was? (video)
posted by mrgrimm (60 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe blacks and latinos just smoke more pot than whites; you ever think of that, buddy?
posted by coolxcool=rad at 10:11 AM on July 24, 2012


Maybe blacks and latinos just smoke more pot than whites; you ever think of that, buddy?

needs hamburger?
posted by mrgrimm at 10:14 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


the war on drugs is over. everybody lost.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:18 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


the war on drugs is over. everybody lost.

Some more than others.
posted by inigo2 at 10:22 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Depressingly plausible.

And one of the reasons I didn't go into criminal law. Tom Wolfe has his excesses, but one line that has stuck with me is a character's musing from Bonfire of the Vanities. The character is an assistant DA in NYC. To paraphrase: "Daddy, what's your job?" "I send black and brown people to jail."

That was in the 1980s. Ugh.
posted by valkyryn at 10:22 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


needs hamburger?

Someone has the munchies.
posted by Forktine at 10:23 AM on July 24, 2012


the war on drugs is over. everybody lost.

Not everybody.
posted by Talez at 10:24 AM on July 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


Maybe blacks and latinos just smoke more pot than whites

addressed more directly, "certainly not enough more to get arrested as more often as they do ..."

According to the 2006 surveys conducted by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 49% of whites and 42.9% of blacks age twelve or older have used illicit drugs in their lifetimes; 14.5% of whites and 16% of blacks have used them in the past year; and 8.5% of whites and 9.8% of blacks have used them in the past month.[42] Because the white population is more than six times greater than the black population, the absolute number of white drug offenders is far greater than that of black drug offenders.[43] SAMHSA estimates that 111,774,000 people in the United States age twelve or older have used illicit drugs during their lifetime, of whom 82,587,000 are white and 12,477,000 are black.[44] Even among powder and crack cocaine users-which remain a principal focus of law enforcement-there are more whites than blacks.[45] According to SAMHSA's calculations, there are 27,083,000 whites who have used cocaine during their lifetime, compared to 2,618,000 blacks and, indeed, 5,553,000 whites who have used crack cocaine, compared to 1,537,000 blacks.[46]

According to the most recent SAMHSA survey, if black and white drug users are combined, blacks account for 13% of the total who have ever used an illicit drug, 8% of those who have ever used cocaine, and 21% of those who have ever used crack cocaine. They represent a comparably small proportion of those who engage in non-possession drug offenses as well. "


- Race, Drugs, and Law Enforcement in the United States
posted by mrgrimm at 10:24 AM on July 24, 2012 [31 favorites]


everybody lost.
I dunno. Seems like police departments across the country made-out like bandits. Nice new weapons, assault training, laws allowing them to seize and sell private property without so much as a conviction.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:24 AM on July 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


coolxcool=rad: "Maybe blacks and latinos just smoke more pot than whites; you ever think of that, buddy?"

lmgtfy...tl;dr: no
According to the 2003 NSDUH, 38.2% of White young adults 18 to 25 years of age in the U.S. reported any illicit drug use in the past year, followed by African-American (30.6%) and Hispanic (27.5%) young adults (SAMHSA, 2004a).
posted by mullingitover at 10:27 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


The New York Police Department, the mayor and the city’s top prosecutors on Monday endorsed a proposal to decriminalize the open possession of small amounts of marijuana, giving an unexpected lift to an effort by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to cut down on the number of people arrested as a result of police stops.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose Police Department made about 50,000 arrests last year for low-level marijuana possession, said the governor’s proposal “strikes the right balance” in part because it would still allow the police to arrest people who smoke marijuana in public.

That's Michael "You bet I did, and I enjoyed it" Bloomberg.
posted by gwint at 10:27 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Our mayor (in San Francisco) has been making noises lately about instituting a stop-and-frisk policy here. The main response seems to be "are you fucking kidding."
posted by rtha at 10:29 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Coolxcool, I am quite sure white people are hoarding all of the good pot. I know this from experience. The stuff those poor Latinos and Blacks smoke should get you arrested but the growers of that crap need the electric chair.
posted by Xeiliex at 10:30 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to the 2003 NSDUH, 38.2% of White young adults 18 to 25 years of age in the U.S. reported any illicit drug use in the past year, followed by African-American (30.6%) and Hispanic (27.5%) young adults (SAMHSA, 2004a).

I really doubt that blacks and latinos smoke enough more to make up the arrest difference.

That said, this rebuttal proves nothing. "Smoked at least once in the last year" doesn't tell you the probability of a person smoking during the time period that an arrest was possible. For instance, both A and B reported "any illicit drug use in the past year" but A was doing it every day and B did it once. A is far more likely to be arrested due to chance alone.
posted by DU at 10:31 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I though racism was dead in America. All my conservative friends said so.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:33 AM on July 24, 2012


From gwint's linked article:

[Senator Martin J. Golden of Brooklyn] said that the enthusiasm among some lawmakers and advocacy groups for Mr. Cuomo’s proposal was “all about stop-and-frisk,” and, citing several young people in his district who had died of prescription drug overdoses in recent months, questioned the message it would send to young people about drug use.

Hey, Senator Golden: "why eat a shitload pills and die when smoking pot is safer than ever?" is a message you could run a campaign on and win, you jackass.
posted by griphus at 10:34 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think we should probably just presume that coolxcool=rad was joking at this point. The idea that the numbers of arrests and searches aren't disproportionate is surely not something that MeFi needs to debate again. The spurious arguments have all been debunked in the New York threads, so unless someone has something new, let's move on maybe?
posted by howfar at 10:35 AM on July 24, 2012


That said, this rebuttal proves nothing. "Smoked at least once in the last year" doesn't tell you the probability of a person smoking during the time period that an arrest was possible. For instance, both A and B reported "any illicit drug use in the past year" but A was doing it every day and B did it once. A is far more likely to be arrested due to chance alone.

That beard looks a little wrong. You need a shave. I think William of Ockham might have one you could use.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:38 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


White people don't get busted because they have air conditioning.
posted by swift at 10:41 AM on July 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not everybody.

Fucking right. CCA is offering to buy prisons from states, as long as they promise a 90% occupancy rate. This is private companies bribing our elected officials to put more of us in jail. You wouldn't believe this shit if you read it in a dystopian novel.
posted by davidjmcgee at 10:41 AM on July 24, 2012 [35 favorites]


The racial disparity in arrests was the decisive political factor in the success of the recent Chicago marijuana decriminalization effort.
posted by enn at 10:42 AM on July 24, 2012


Pot is a gateway drug to good pot, let's not forget.
posted by Mister_A at 10:43 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


My assumption is that the reason there are more pot arrests for minorities is because it provides a probable cause for other shit. "I smelled weed" is a basic lie that can then be used to shake someone down for other shit - all the stop and frisk nonsense - guns, outstanding warrants, "sending a message", etc etc. Meaning - it's a cover for more dire racism.
posted by spicynuts at 10:49 AM on July 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


That beard looks a little wrong. You need a shave. I think William of Ockham might have one you could use.

White people don't get busted because they have air conditioning.


I don't know if you were joking, but that's almost exactly the point I was going to make. They also live in the suburbs, where there's more places to hide (i.e. behind the strip mall, at your friend's house vs a shared ventilation apartment complex"). Also, I can definitely imagine different socialization patterns such as hanging out at a park vs in your parent's basement.
posted by DU at 10:51 AM on July 24, 2012


But all that said: racism is definitely the biggest factor here.
posted by DU at 10:52 AM on July 24, 2012


White people don't get busted because they have air conditioning.

True story.
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:53 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


All the white people I know smoke weed and none of them even have a traffic ticket. The overt racism in the American judicial system is deplorable, and the CCA prison profiteering is even more terrifying.
posted by Roger_Mexico at 11:05 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


white people get high like this, black people get high like this
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 11:08 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Are there any non-white-collar crimes that have a higher arrest rate for whites than non-whites?
posted by mkultra at 11:08 AM on July 24, 2012


If the police bothered to search a typical college dorm building, they'd find enough contraband to send half the residents to prison. And yet they never, ever do this.
posted by miyabo at 11:11 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Are there any non-white-collar crimes that have a higher arrest rate for whites than non-whites?

Meth Possession/ Hate Crimes/Check Fraud?
posted by Rubbstone at 11:11 AM on July 24, 2012


The OP links are disturbing but unsurprising, but the CCA stuff is downright terrifying.
posted by immlass at 11:13 AM on July 24, 2012


Rubbstone: "Meth Possession/ Hate Crimes/Check Fraud?"

Aside from the obviousness of "hate crimes", do you have any cites?
posted by mkultra at 11:17 AM on July 24, 2012


If the police bothered to search a typical college dorm building, they'd find enough contraband to send half the residents to prison. And yet they never, ever do this.

One, they would need probably cause. "Everyone knows college kids smoke weed" is not probable cause.

Two, most kids in dorms, not to mention the university, would have access to exemplary legal representation.

Three, most universities have their own campus police - dorm busts are not good for business for the university.

Contrast this to "I smell weed" being a solid probably cause for raiding an entire block in say...East New York.
posted by spicynuts at 11:21 AM on July 24, 2012


My assumption is that the reason there are more pot arrests for minorities is because

white kids smoking pot are just "kids being kids", but visible minorities are "evil drug users who will destroy society".

I'd say I was being sarcastic, but sadly I think this is how law enforcement really thinks - because that is how they behave when it comes to interacting with visible minorities (in Canada as well as in the US). I keep meeting individual police officers who seem like nice people - how is it that they are so messed once they put on the uniform and go out on patrol?
posted by jb at 11:26 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The less-than-ethical scientist in me wants to design a social experiment to prove a fairly obvious point. Let's say there's a kid sitting on a stoop smoking a joint when a patrol car drives by. Do you think that kid has an equal likelihood of being of arrested if he's White versus Black versus Latino?

Not that there isn't merit to the other arguments presented, but all things being equal, White people don't get busted because they're White. I don't know what it is about being the "unmarked" member of society that makes this so difficult to see clearly. Those fairly equal percentages of drug-use are quoted because we do not have an equal absolute number of Whites, Blacks, Latinos, etc. The ethnic ratio of the prison population should reflect the ratio of the population at-large, but the prison population is an extremely reversed bastardization of America's actual demographic information. There's something to be said about the different experiences of committing the crime, getting caught/arrested, going to court and subsequently ending up in jail or prison. Arguably, this process is much narrower, more streamlined, and less forgiving for people of color for a variety of reasons.

I don't know why it never occurred to me there would be a corporation that attempts to be responsible for America's correctional facilities, but I guess it is a business after all.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 11:30 AM on July 24, 2012


I used to live on the boardwalk in Newport Beach, CA, a couple of years out of college. It was us boys, living the bachelor life. We used to sit on the balcony overlooking the walk at McFadden Pier, drinking beer and watching the world go by. On weekends in the summer, the parking lot would be jammed with cars, either looking for parking (ha! as if) or just cruising - it could take about thirty minutes to make the circuit around the lot.

One thing we all noticed was that the cars that had latinos or black guys would always get pulled over by the cops. They'd often park right in front of our house and we'd drink beer and watch these poor guys getting hassled - sitting on the curb as the cops ransacked their car. They always got a ticket, and about half the time someone went away in cuffs. Maybe one in four pullovers resulted in the car being impounded as well.

This used to piss us off that they were clearly picking on the guys just for their race. But it puzzled us - and fed the stereotype - that so many minority guys appeared to have warrants. Obviously these guys had done something wrong - so regardless of the blatant racism by the cops, they were clearly getting "bad guys".

A little over twenty years later, I get it. Once you are in the system, they never let you go. I realize now that those guys in the cars didn't have warrants, mostly. They were being popped on violation of probation. Beer in the car. Weed. Being from Los Angeles County without permission from probation. Trivial bullshit.

They never, ever, let you go. Oh and by the way, you know how probation works, right? You basically lose all your civil rights. You do not have the right to refuse a search. Refuse? Violation, automatic trip to jail, and you get searched anyway. Failure to identify? They'll detain you until they identify you, then it's a violation, tack on thirty days for violation.

Obviously, it's possible to avoid getting in trouble while you are on probation. But it's not easy, and if you grew up in a neighborhood where literally every family including yours had someone in jail, in prison, or on probation or parole, you get a certain fatalism about it. These kids expect to go to jail before they ever go. There's no shame in it. Your family and friends are all in the same boat. Jail is a pain in the neck, then probation, then some more jail, then prison maybe. By the time these kids are tired of being churned up by the system, they are no longer kids.

The threat of jail is no deterrent. Let that sink in for a few minutes. Jail is no deterrent. It is literally the definition of failure - the system has failed to do what it supposed to do. Yet people want to build more jails and incarcerate more people. Insanity.
posted by Xoebe at 11:38 AM on July 24, 2012 [37 favorites]


>Rubbstone: "Meth Possession/ Hate Crimes/Check Fraud?"

Aside from the obviousness of "hate crimes", do you have any cites?


Methamphetamine is a "by whites, for whites" drug. More data. The standard meth user is, apparently, an employed, white male between 19 and 40.
posted by valkyryn at 11:40 AM on July 24, 2012


The threat of jail is no deterrent. Let that sink in for a few minutes. Jail is no deterrent. It is literally the definition of failure - the system has failed to do what it supposed to do. Yet people want to build more jails and incarcerate more people. Insanity.

It's never been about a deterrent. It's about retributive, old testament style "justice" in paying a debt to society.
posted by Talez at 11:53 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


CCA isn't alone, either--the GEO Group has made $78.6 million this year from the private prison industrial complex.

I suppose you could make a chicken-or-egg argument about the private prison industry, but it makes it no less abhorrent.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:07 PM on July 24, 2012


A little over twenty years later, I get it. Once you are in the system, they never let you go.

This is a tool for segregation. Once you are in the system, the Po Po has any number of ways to keep you out of 'the good side of town'. Keeping 'trouble' on the other side of the tracks and sending a strong message that crossing the line in the sand will result being sent back to pokey is a huge part of the type of harassment you are citing.
posted by spicynuts at 12:09 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are there any non-white-collar crimes that have a higher arrest rate for whites than non-whites?

Stealing Britney Spears CDs?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:32 PM on July 24, 2012


I keep meeting individual police officers who seem like nice people - how is it that they are so messed once they put on the uniform and go out on patrol?

I read a great book called "Profiles in Injustice" about racial profiling by police. The author answers this very question by stating that effective police training would go a long way in helping cops depend on skills acquired in proper training. That way police aren't making assumptions and decisions based on their poor personal (and shared social) judgments and perceptions. Essentially we can override our natural tendencies to rely on things like our "gut feeling" or "colored perceptions" and other illogical fallacies that impose on our decision making.
posted by loquat at 12:35 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suppose you could make a chicken-or-egg argument about the private prison industry, but it makes it no less abhorrent.

Historically, the situation may be unclear, but there may be a pretty strong argument that currently the private prison industry is one of the driving forces behind maintaining the criminality of drugs.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:42 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's never been about a deterrent. It's about retributive, old testament style "justice" in paying a debt to society.

Then it's a failure on that front, as well, since so many people who are arrested and imprisoned already feel cut off from society and don't give a shit about paying some metaphorical debt to something that has been fine with telling them "We don't give a shit about you."
posted by rtha at 1:01 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


so many people who are arrested and imprisoned already feel cut off from society

I'd agree that it's a failure, but that's not why. Retributive justice isn't so much about "paying a debt to society" as much as just getting straight-out punished. But imprisonment doesn't even effectively do that. It's a bizarre and unhelpful combination of too soft and too hard. It's not at all tailored to the crime, the "punishment" takes months or years to work itself out, and it winds up damaging communities rather than just criminals.

Incarceration is just no good at all.
posted by valkyryn at 1:52 PM on July 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Incarceration is just no good at all.

Admitting that retributive justice has no ethical underpinning whatsoever would be a step in the right direction. But even if one's delusion of choice supports retribution, the notion that society has a right to hurt me because of what I choose to do to my own brain is frankly bizarre.
posted by howfar at 3:15 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


white people get high like this, black people get high like this

true nuff. meet ... my white friend Chip.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:23 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]



Maybe blacks and latinos just smoke more pot than whites; you ever think of that, buddy?
posted by coolxcool=rad at 1:11 PM on July 24


no.
posted by liza at 6:05 PM on July 24, 2012


Maybe blacks and latinos just smoke more pot than whites; you ever think of that, buddy?

sixcolors?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:24 PM on July 24, 2012


I think coolxcool=rad was joking, people.
posted by koeselitz at 7:24 PM on July 24, 2012


valkyryn: "Methamphetamine is a "by whites, for whites" drug. More data. The standard meth user is, apparently, an employed, white male between 19 and 40."

The actual numbers about arrests in both linked articles still point decisively to more arrests among non-whites:

"Although the majority of those who shared, sold, or transferred serious drugs[17] in Seattle are white (indeed seventy percent of the general Seattle population is white), almost two-thirds (64.2%) of drug arrestees are black. The racially disproportionate drug arrests result from the police department's emphasis on the outdoor drug market in the racially diverse downtown area of the city, its lack of attention to other outdoor markets that are predominantly white, and its emphasis on crack. Three-quarters of the drug arrests were crack-related even though only an estimated one-third of the city's drug transactions involved crack.[18] Whites constitute the majority of those who deliver methamphetamine, ecstasy, powder cocaine, and heroin in Seattle; blacks are the majority of those who deliver crack. Not surprisingly then, seventy-nine percent of those arrested on crack charges were black"

"In Iowa, blacks are 7.7 times more likely to be imprisoned for drug offenses than whites, according to the report released last month.
[...]
As a percentage of all prison admissions (per 100,000 people), whites imprisoned for drug offenses increased 126.8 percent, from 12.9 in 1996 to 29.3 in 2003. Blacks imprisoned for drug offenses accounted for a decrease of 40.6 percent, from 377 in 1996 to 224.3 in 2003."
posted by mkultra at 9:14 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


valkyryn: "Methamphetamine is a "by whites, for whites" drug. More data. The standard meth user is, apparently, an employed, white male between 19 and 40."

The actual numbers about arrests in both linked articles still point decisively to more arrests among non-whites:


Oh, sure. I was only saying that while minorities are still arrested disproportionately for meth offenses, they're not actually in the majority on that one.
posted by valkyryn at 3:12 AM on July 25, 2012


valkyryn: Incarceration is just no good at all.

Agreed. Unless your penal system is based on religious absolutism, in which case it's the obvious solution to society's ills.

I thought it was a truism in Sociology/Criminology that the purpose of incarceration was explicitly rehabilitation? Isn't that what we learned from the last 1000 years of history in Europe, that incarceration is ineffective as punishment, nor does it deter criminals from crime.
posted by sneebler at 5:15 PM on July 25, 2012


>the war on drugs is over. everybody lost.

Not everybody.


The Dude: It's like what Lenin said... you look for the person who will benefit, and, uh, uh...

Donny: I am the walrus.

The Dude: You know what I'm trying to say...

Donny: I am the walrus.

Walter Sobchak: That fucking bitch...

The Dude: Oh yeah!

Donny: I am the walrus.

Walter Sobchak: Shut the fuck up, Donny! V.I. Lenin. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov!

Donny: What the fuck is he talking about, Dude?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:28 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


link fail.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:31 PM on July 25, 2012


Gary Johnson Tries to Inject Pot Legalization Into the Presidential Race
posted by homunculus at 12:58 PM on July 26, 2012


Our mayor (in San Francisco) has been making noises lately about instituting a stop-and-frisk policy here. The main response seems to be "are you fucking kidding."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee Knows A Useful Tragedy When He Sees One
posted by homunculus at 1:04 PM on July 26, 2012


Pot Legalization Is Coming
posted by homunculus at 1:10 PM on July 27, 2012


That article lost a lot of credibility when it suggested that ecstasy is a "brain melter" or "organ fryer", when all the evidence is that it is at least as benign as cannabis. Drugs policy will only start to make sense when it is ruled by rationality rather than superstition.
posted by howfar at 4:44 PM on July 27, 2012


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