Blacks Are Singled Out for Marijuana Arrests, Federal Data Suggests
June 4, 2013 5:50 AM   Subscribe

 
dryly

Quelle surprise...

/dryly
posted by magstheaxe at 5:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gin and Tacos just weighed in on this.
posted by bardic at 5:54 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's ok, because it's offset by all the white investment bankers we put in jail for stealing all that money and ruining people's oh wait.
posted by Huck500 at 6:04 AM on June 4, 2013 [35 favorites]


The reason marijuana is illegal is because it was favored as an intoxicant by non-whites.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:06 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


The reason marijuana is illegal is because it was favored as an intoxicant by non-whites.

Yeah, I guess that's why meth and LSD are legal then.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:12 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Are there any statistics on marijuana smoking habits indoor vs. outdoor/public for whites and blacks? It seems to me that if you're smoking weed outdoors in a high-crime area, you're much more likely to be picked up by the cops.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:15 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


BobbyVan, I had exactly the same thought when I read the article. You'd think they would have looked at that. It's an obvious issue. Too bad the article didn't say anything about it.
posted by alms at 6:17 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


And considering that according to the latest US census info White persons represent 78.1% percent,
and Black persons represent 13.1% percent. So 1 in 6 people are Black but blacks are 4 x more likely to be arrested..
posted by snaparapans at 6:18 AM on June 4, 2013


It seems to me that if you live in a city with more dense housing then the likelyhood of you smoking anything outside in your "high-crime" neighborhood is higher than you smoking it inside your cramped apartment.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:18 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Because Meth and Weed are totally comparable in terms of personal and social harms.

The prohibition of soft intoxicants like liquor, opium, and cannabis in the US always had a strong racial component (against Scots-Irish, Chinese, & Mexicans/Blacks respectively).
posted by absalom at 6:18 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also: This isn't mysterious at all, just boring old institutional racism.

Minorities - particularly African-Americans - are subject to more law enforcement scrutiny than whites. More scrutiny means more arrests.
posted by absalom at 6:20 AM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Such racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small Black populations.

OK, but don't racial disparities in law enforcement exist across the board? I would bet that more blacks are arrested for driving without a license even though whites and blacks probably do that too at more or less the same rates.

Well, not across the board, I suppose. I would challenge anyone to provide any evidence that there has been any racial disparity whatsoever in the prosecution of investment bankers.
posted by three blind mice at 6:20 AM on June 4, 2013


Meth used to be a "soft intoxicant" sold over the counter at gas stations.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:21 AM on June 4, 2013


BobbyVan: "Are there any statistics on marijuana smoking habits indoor vs. outdoor/public for whites and blacks? It seems to me that if you're smoking weed outdoors in a high-crime area, you're much more likely to be picked up by the cops."

You don't have to be brazenly smoking weed in the street to be arrested for marijuana possession. It strikes me as much more likely that the disparity is due to black people being stopped by the police with greater frequency, meaning they're more likely to be found with marijuana in their pocket because the police aren't searching white people unless they're brazenly smoking weed in the street.

in some states, including Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, blacks were around eight times as likely to be arrested.

Gee, Minnesota, am I surprised? That'd be a no.
posted by hoyland at 6:22 AM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


10th Regiment: Heroin also was sold OTC, but it's hardly a soft intoxicant. I should have known someone lumping Meth, LSD, and Pot all in the same basket was not approaching the issue in good faith to begin with.

Misunderstanding rectified, at least I tried.
posted by absalom at 6:26 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


BobbyVan: "Are there any statistics on marijuana smoking habits indoor vs. outdoor/public for whites and blacks? It seems to me that if you're smoking weed outdoors in a high-crime area, you're much more likely to be picked up by the cops."

I recall reading that this is one of the issues. That white people generally tend to deal indoors, but a lot of black users deal outside (in cars, on the street, etc). How true that is, I don't know. I wish I knew the statistics on that. Not sure how one would really find out. That said, I still believe there's plenty of discrimination that happens that causes these increases beyond public/private use/sales...
posted by symbioid at 6:28 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This data is so 2010. I would like to see the other charges the offenders are charged with, like are all the arrests just for pot or for some other crime and then pot is found or what.
posted by clavdivs at 6:29 AM on June 4, 2013


Correlation does not equal causation?
posted by resurrexit at 6:29 AM on June 4, 2013


I wish I could muster even a bit of surprise about this.

I also won't be surprised it if turns out to be more complicated (e.g. because of the indoor/outdoor dealing thing)...but I also won't be surprised if it doesn't.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:32 AM on June 4, 2013


Speaking of Minnesota and the midwest, I think I read that Wisconsin has the highest percentage of its black population incarcerated in some form. :\
posted by symbioid at 6:32 AM on June 4, 2013


See also: The disparity between prison sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine. 5 grams of crack would have the same penalty as 500 grams of powder cocaine.

In 2009, the U.S. Sentencing Commission introduced figures stating that no class of drug is as racially skewed as crack in terms of numbers of offenses. 1
posted by trogdole at 6:36 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


lumping Meth, LSD, and Pot all in the same basket was not approaching the issue in good faith to begin with.

OK, let's try this a different way then and I'll get off this derail. I find the argument specious. I hear the argument that pot was made illegal as a way to control blacks and latinos often, but I have yet to find a historical reference to this. The congressional testimony for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 has no reference to this. The Hague Convention outlawing it's transnational transportation in 1925 has no mention. I doubt it would have had much to do with why the British Empire outlawed it in the early 20th century outside places like South Africa or Jamaica. I do know it has much to do with some local ordanances, particularly in California, but that doesn't explain how this would leeched into the National prohibition. I think perhaps the racial tones of the local ordinances have been conflated to the national argument as a tactic to further smear marijuana prohibition. There are a great many other fact based arguments that are more accurate and objective than trotting it out once again.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:39 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Correlation does not equal causation?

What is this supposed to mean.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:41 AM on June 4, 2013


Correlation does not equal causation?

What is this supposed to mean.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:41 AM on June 4


It means that 2/3 of Metafilter has taken a basic statistics class, but for some reason assumes that people creating statistical studies have not.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:44 AM on June 4, 2013 [48 favorites]


I recall reading that this is one of the issues. That white people generally tend to deal indoors, but a lot of black users deal outside (in cars, on the street, etc).

I remember something like this as well, as well as reading something about how middle class "dealers" tended to both use their dealing as a lower proportion of their overall income, and also engage in less risky profit-maximizing behavior. I think this definitely would have an impact on these statistics - if middle class dealers are mostly dealing casually to people they know, then they are less likely to be caught and arrested by stings and the like.

Also, if you have a crowded apartment where multiple people live, and you don't want to hotbox them (or share), then you are more likely to go outside as compared to someone in a single family house who can just open their top windows.
posted by corb at 6:57 AM on June 4, 2013




The War on Drugs is the new Jim Crow. If not the new slavery.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:07 AM on June 4, 2013


Sorry officer I.... I didn't know I couldn't do that.

While we're on Chappelle's take on this...
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:08 AM on June 4, 2013


The 10th Regiment of Foot:

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was pushed through by Assistant Prohibition Commissioner Harry Anslinger. Here's a few choice quotes of his:

"Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with (white) female students, smoking [marijuana] and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result: pregnancy"

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men”

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

Is it the only reason it was made illegal? Probably not (see conspiracy theories about Dupont and Hearst attempting to eliminate the hemp industry). But it was definitely part of the discussion.
posted by Crash at 7:09 AM on June 4, 2013 [32 favorites]


The congressional testimony for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 has no reference to this.

Because laws based on bias always make their prejudices explicit within the legalistic text itself!
posted by aught at 7:21 AM on June 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


"Blacks"? Aaaaargh... black people, ferchrissakes
/derail
posted by windykites at 7:24 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, and liquor prohibition gained traction as "non-white" Mediterranean ethnicities began to immigrate from Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain - Temperance had always had a nasty Nativist and anti-Catholic streak to it in the second half of the 19th century, going after German and Irish immigrant communities, but the darker-skinned southern europeans and their culture of wine-drinking that arrived in numbers after the turn of the century drove them nuts. If wine could be outlawed, they'd stop coming...
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:26 AM on June 4, 2013


"Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use."

Oh fuck, I've jammed on bass guitar with people while stoned off my box. Wish I had known this important information earlier. I can feel the Satanism creeping over me right now!

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men”

Attention Black Hipsters - I have found the perfect t-shirt slogan for you.
posted by marienbad at 7:26 AM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Because laws based on bias always make their prejudices explicit within the legalistic text itself!

"Congressional testimony" is not "the legalistic text itself," surely?
posted by yoink at 7:26 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mod note: This is about racial profiling and marijuana arrests in the US, not about where on the political spectrum we should place the US president.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 7:32 AM on June 4, 2013


Because laws based on bias always make their prejudices explicit within the legalistic text itself!

In the 1930s, yes. Testimony is not the same as the law itself. The testimony focuses on health concerns and the legalities of the Mexican hash trade mostly from what I can find. It does not talk about specific members of any racial, ethnic, socio-economic, or national groups. I do agree that Ansliger was a major player and probably used commonly held racist views to his advantage, but I'm not sure if those quotes were in order to further the cause or the root of his cause itself.

Temperance had always had a nasty Nativist and anti-Catholic streak to it in the second half of the 19th century

I don't think "always" is apropriate here. The movement was bigger and more complex than just the Know-Nothings. Some of the originators of the temperence movement happened to be major Irish nationalists who saw drunkeness as an Irish scourge and weakness holding back the national cause and many of them brought those beliefs with them when they immigrated to the US to escape the famines!

Anyway, I need to get off this derail. Past history is what it is and isn't necessarily tied directly to what the subject of this study (unless of course sombody wants to show some links here, then I'm all for it!)
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:41 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went off on a little Google junket about Anslinger and I'm beginning to wonder if that "reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men" quote is legit. Anyone have a really solid source for it?
posted by yoink at 7:45 AM on June 4, 2013


Correlation does not equal causation?

I always kind of wonder about that with these studies and I wonder if racism gets a little overplayed as a result. We know that children with poor parents are more likely to be poor as adults. It creates a cycle of poverty. I think that some of the reason why black people are disproportionately poor today is because of the racism of past generations. So even if we could magically end racism today, minorities would still be disproportionately poor for a few generations.

If police are targeting poor neighborhoods, it makes sense that there will be more arrests in those neighborhoods. Drug arrests are pretty easy to generate with "stop and frisk" policies. So if blacks are over-represented among the poor, one would expect them to be over-represented in the arrests as well even without racism being a factor.

It isn't that I don't think there is a big heap of institutional racism at fault here. I just think it would be nice to know how much of the problem is racism and how much is a lack of socioeconomic mobility. I suppose that assumes that the solutions for either are different though and I really don't know whether or not they are.
posted by VTX at 7:49 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just think it would be nice to know how much of the problem is racism and how much is a lack of socioeconomic mobility.

In practical terms, I don't see how these can be disentangled.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:54 AM on June 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


It isn't that I don't think there is a big heap of institutional racism at fault here. I just think it would be nice to know how much of the problem is racism and how much is a lack of socioeconomic mobility.

It is a pretty big assumption to make that lack of socioeconomic mobility isn't largely if not primarily the result of institutional racism.
posted by ndfine at 7:59 AM on June 4, 2013


I do agree that Ansliger was a major player and probably used commonly held racist views to his advantage, but I'm not sure if those quotes were in order to further the cause or the root of his cause itself.

Racism is not ontological, it's structural and behavioral. By forwarding rhetoric and institutional structures that are racially discriminatory, Anslinger's a racist.
posted by kewb at 8:00 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whether intentionally or not, marijuana possession enforcement in high crime areas has become a simple/easy took for getting problematic people off the street. Marijuana possession arrests are overwhelming the result of stops and searches for other causes and suspicions (things having nothing to do with marijuana, and marijuana dealing.

Whether or not this should change is really a question for the people who have businesses or residences in those communities. The opinion of civil libertarians (or drug prohibitionists, for that matter) who don't live or do business in those communities seems relatively unimportant to me, as they won't have to bear the consequence of their view having bad results, just as they didn't have to bear the consequences of the 30-year decline that was kicked off by their forbears zeal for criminal leniency and welfare generosity in the 1960s.
posted by MattD at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2013


It isn't that I don't think there is a big heap of institutional racism at fault here. I just think it would be nice to know how much of the problem is racism and how much is a lack of socioeconomic mobility. I suppose that assumes that the solutions for either are different though and I really don't know whether or not they are.


Well quite. It would be nice to look at the rates of arrest in black and white people of similar socioeconomic class. It would be wrong to deny race as an issue, but class really factors in. The reason a judge's son can get away with some drug use may not be due to their skin colour.

Of course the historic (and current) reasons for black people to be poorer on average are not exactly racism free.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 8:16 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Jazz Weed" Crime Source - Schenectady Gazette, Oct 19, 1921
Marihuana, a weird "jazz weed" frequently used by Mexican drug addicts is the source of much crime in the southwest...

... a bit of marihuana placed in a drink of brandy causes the optimistic indulger to fancy that he witnesses jelly-like pulsations and Oriental wiggles in every object in his view. Street cars shake like a wicked shimmy for the marihuana smoker.

If a little marihuana is sprinkled on a tortilla as it bakes, the lowly delicacy vibrates and, it is said, sends forth weird tunes not unlike those peeping over the walls of a sultan's harem rendezvous.
posted by XMLicious at 8:16 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


marijuana possession enforcement in high crime areas has become a simple/easy

Why is it a high-crime area? All the marijuana arrests of course!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:17 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


a bit of marihuana placed in a drink of brandy causes the optimistic indulger to fancy that he witnesses jelly-like pulsations and Oriental wiggles in every object in his view. Street cars shake like a wicked shimmy for the marihuana smoker.

Proof that weed hasn't actually gotten stronger over the years!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:19 AM on June 4, 2013


Whether or not this should change is really a question for the people who have businesses or residences in those communities.

You're absolutely right. You should take a walk through any of those neighborhoods and ask them how they feel about the police presence, stop and frisk, and whether they'd like police to spend time on enforcing drug laws for cannibis or, I don't know, solving assaults, robberies, and sex crimes. I'm sure you won't be surprised at all.

The opinion of civil libertarians (or drug prohibitionists, for that matter) who don't live or do business in those communities seems relatively unimportant to me, as they won't have to bear the consequence of their view having bad results, just as they didn't have to bear the consequences of the 30-year decline that was kicked off by their forbears zeal for criminal leniency and welfare generosity in the 1960s.

What consequences? Don't forget to provide details.
posted by tripping daisy at 8:24 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Whether intentionally or not, marijuana possession enforcement in high crime areas has become a simple/easy took for getting problematic people off the street.

And the impact of criminal records for non-violent offenses on someone's employability are a major reason for people being ON the street. Fancy that, it's like a big loop! A cruel loop, at that. There should be a term for that sort of process...
posted by FatherDagon at 8:31 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I didn't know better I'd think that some of this arrest-o-philia was driven by a profit motive! But that's nonsense! The corrections system is part of the public commons, and is not ever driven by profit! It costs the taxpayers enormous sums to incarcerate people, whether for trivial infractions like being high and black at the same time, or major ones like shooting people or biting their ears off. So there are only losers, and no winners, in the incarceration game.
posted by Mister_A at 8:37 AM on June 4, 2013


The opinion of civil libertarians (or drug prohibitionists, for that matter) who don't live or do business in those communities seems relatively unimportant to me, as they won't have to bear the consequence of their view having bad results, just as they didn't have to bear the consequences of the 30-year decline that was kicked off by their forbears zeal for criminal leniency and welfare generosity in the 1960s.

30-year decline of what?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:39 AM on June 4, 2013


Hey man, you know, the welfare generosity, man, which is code for defunding American cities starting in the '70s and lasting into the '90s.
posted by Mister_A at 8:42 AM on June 4, 2013


It is a pretty big assumption to make that lack of socioeconomic mobility isn't largely if not primarily the result of institutional racism.

Right but even then, how much is because of institutional racism today and how much due to institutional racism in previous generations?

My hypothesis is that if after the civil war ended, racism just went away for some reason, we'd still see these disparities along racial lines because we'd also see the same disparities along socioeconomic lines. Newly freed slaves were poor so their children would tend to be poor, and their children would also be poor, and so on. Even without racism making it worse today (as I'm sure it does) I would expect there to be some disparity along racial lines.


I just think it would be nice to know how much of the problem is racism and how much is a lack of socioeconomic mobility.

In practical terms, I don't see how these can be disentangled.


There have to be some areas socioeconomic status and race aren't so so entangled. There have to be urban areas where poor white people live right? It should be possible to gather similar data in poor urban areas that aren't so racially homogeneous and compare that data to poor areas that are. The difference should tell us something about the affect that institutional racism has on socioeconomic mobility or racism in the criminal justice system.
posted by VTX at 8:45 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


There have to be urban areas where poor white people live right? It should be possible to gather similar data in poor urban areas that aren't so racially homogeneous and compare that data to poor areas that are. The difference should tell us something about the affect that institutional racism has on socioeconomic mobility or racism in the criminal justice system.

I think you're talking about Fishtown.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:50 AM on June 4, 2013


Fishtown ain't filled with poor white people anymore.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:52 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fishtown ain't filled with poor white people anymore.

I'm not an expert on the Philadelphia area, but according to this, Fishtown is more than 75% white.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:58 AM on June 4, 2013


Yeah, but they are not poor. Its highly gentrified now.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2013


Plural of anecdote is not data etc etc, but I want to relate my own story here as something to consider.

I grew up (6th grade through high school) in one of those high crime "inner city areas" with lots of cops on patrol. I walked through the streets often. No one ever tried to sell me drugs of any kind, nor did I ever see anyone smoking pot out in the open. Did smell it coming from people's houses or cars, but no one strolled around lighting up. And the dealers were not very brazen even though they were "out in the open" -- that's kinda how you stay in that profession, you operate furtively and you keep your eyes open for one time.

The first time I ever tried marijuana was via a white friend at our clean-cut, well-behaved Catholic high school. We walked through a neighborhood near the school smoking a joint. (Hope my mom isn't on Metafilter, she'll ground me for a month if she reads this post!)

When I went off to college, I had white people try to sell me pot many times. And not just the Rasta wannabes. Sometimes it was in fact the kids with dreds and backpacks, but it was also sometimes the guys who wouldn't have been out of place in a Ralph Lauren ad.

This doesn't prove anything, of course, but I wanted to throw it out there as a counterpoint to the "out in the open" thing and to show that neither the low-level dealers nor users in the ghetto are putting themselves out there more frequently than white dealers and users.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:01 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the article:

police departments, partly driven by a desire to increase their drug arrest statistics, can concentrate on minority or poorer neighborhoods to meet numerical goals, focusing on low-level offenses that are easier, quicker and cheaper than investigating serious felony crimes.

That sounds close to an answer. Racial and or class profiling, overt drug dealing or use in poor/minority neighborhoods, which makes for an easy target, and a desire for a police department to look like it is doing a good job, with a minimum effort, are all likely factors.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:02 AM on June 4, 2013


Yeah, but they are not poor. Its highly gentrified now.

Gotcha.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:03 AM on June 4, 2013


This is just speculation, but I imagine cops hesitate to bust some middle-class white kid for dealing weed when they know the middle class white kid's parents can probably afford a lawyer who can make that cop's life a lot more complicated. I'd imagine if the poor could afford lawyers, we'd see a lot more cases on racial profiling.

Does anyone know if there are studies into this?
posted by Peevish at 9:14 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I swear there is an article about this very fact almost ever month for years. Still society at large doesn't seem to care, as evidenced by people acting surprised every time data like this comes out. Maybe the word is getting out slowly but I think society just has a short memory when it comes to the plight of minorities.
posted by SounderCoo at 9:43 AM on June 4, 2013


Here's the full report from the ACLU. Find your county and see how it does.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:49 AM on June 4, 2013


surprise! surprise! surprise!

Seems to me likelihood of arrest for possession of illegal firearms must be even more racially biased, and produce even harsher sentences.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:51 AM on June 4, 2013


Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

goddammit where are my white women and trumpet playing skills. I must have been smoking this wrong the whole time.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:21 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seems to me likelihood of arrest for possession of illegal firearms must be even more racially biased, and produce even harsher sentences.

Yet the social benefits of getting illegal guns off the streets are undeniable, and might arguably outweigh concerns about disparate racial impacts of those gun arrests.

Conversely, the strict enforcement of marijuana laws, especially for simple possession, doesn't seem to have any similarly persuasive benefits (and probably imposes fiscal/economic costs and contributes to the overall breakdown of social cohesion).
posted by BobbyVan at 10:21 AM on June 4, 2013


Find your county and see how it does.

Vermont is the only state with only triple-digit arrests, that said we're one of only a few with six-digit populations. Our stats are still ungood, not surprisingly.
posted by jessamyn at 10:22 AM on June 4, 2013


Also....

This is the problem of having a society where we put someone in jail for committing a crime. It allows us to look at these aggregate statistics on the one hand and go "that's terrible!" and on the other hand when a black man is in front of a jury for a gram of marijuana we still send him to the pen. There's no mechanism in our justice system for correcting or taking into account statistical biases in over policing minorities, for poverty leading to arrests, etc. We can't say "he's black and because the system is set up against black people we won't put this one in jail". In short there's no way endogenous of the law to fix the law and so this problem will never go away without resorting to the extralegal.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:28 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


We can't say "he's black and because the system is set up against black people we won't put this one in jail". In short there's no way exogenous of the law to fix the law and so this problem will never go away without resorting to the extralegal.

Depends on how you define extralegal. Jury nullification of drug charges in black communities is definitely something that happens.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:32 AM on June 4, 2013


Yeah, I guess that's why meth and LSD are legal then.

Methamphetamine is legal; it's a Schedule II substance sold as Desoxyn.

There was some relevant information in the Officer Serrano's Hidden Camera post from earlier today:
"Once he joined the 4-0, nothing seemed clear-cut. “Every now and then, we would have to be put in a van and hunt, basically. Drive around, and the sergeant or whoever would say: ‘That guy there—write him.’ ‘That guy—write him.’ ” [...] “The police would stop, come out of the car, frisk us whenever they felt like it,” he says. “You were Hispanic or black in a high-crime location—it happened every day, and you just got used to it. You don’t question it. At first you get upset. But after they hit you or arrest you or summons you, you get to know real quick: Just let them search you and they’ll go away.” [...]
In 2011, 87 percent of the people stopped were African-American or Latino. And in the overwhelming majority of stops—nearly 90 percent of them—police officers didn’t make an arrest or hand out a summons.

The Drug Policy Foundation has some good research on race in relation to the Drug War.

Pot as Pretext: Marijuana, Race and the New Disorder in New York City Street Policing: The racial skew, questionable constitutionality, and limited efficiency of marijuana enforcement in detecting serious crimes suggest that non-white New Yorkers bear a racial tax from contemporary policing strategy, a social cost not offset by any substantial observed benefits to public safety.

Arresting Blacks for Marijuana in California: Possession Arrests, 2006-08: In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half a million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially young men. Yet, U.S. government surveys consistently find that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young blacks. From 2006 through 2008, police in 25 of California's major cities have arrested blacks at four, five, six, seven and even twelve times the rate of whites.
posted by nTeleKy at 10:33 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


In 2011, 87 percent of the people stopped were African-American or Latino. And in the overwhelming majority of stops—nearly 90 percent of them—police officers didn’t make an arrest or hand out a summons.

According to this, 99% of the South Bronx is Hispanic or African-American, so that part doesn't really concern me.
posted by VTX at 10:48 AM on June 4, 2013


This is the problem of having a society where we put someone in jail for committing a crime.

Isn't what you said there true of any form criminal punishment at all that a person could be sentenced to, not just putting people in jail?
posted by XMLicious at 11:10 AM on June 4, 2013


Oh sure. Wherever we sentence the individual for a crime without looking at the considerations of why the crime took place we are going to have this problem.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 11:17 AM on June 4, 2013


I'm very curious about how the recent trend to substantial decriminalization (though not yet legalization) of marijuana use/possession in states like California will impact future crime statistics.

For many young people in CA, especially minorities, it all starts with marijuana arrests: criminal records, joblessness, enmeshing into the whole pathology of institutionalization and marginalization.

I by no means imagine that this is somehow going to be a game-changer, but I would hope that it has some kind of measurable impact. I'm too old to see the statistics play out in my lifetime, but I feel this is going to be a good trend.
posted by VikingSword at 11:56 AM on June 4, 2013


PDF of the full report here, and it does address the methodology question:

A more scholarly analysis would employ panel data techniques on this county-level data, controlling for a set of time-varying explanatory variables, such as total drug arrests and drug use, to test whether the coefficient on the race variable is statistically significant. Ideally, the multivariate regression analysis would also control for individual characteristics of each arrest, such as amount of marijuana possessed and the age and criminal history record of the individual arrested, as well as for various forms of within county variation (e.g., on average, within a given county, are Blacks more likely than whites to live in high-density residential areas where the arrest rate overall is higher?).
posted by IndigoJones at 12:29 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


And this is where I recommend the book The New Jim Crow which is about this topic and many others related to institutionalized racism and how it affects communities long-term (and is perpetuated).
posted by R343L at 2:42 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


In 2011, 87 percent of the people stopped were African-American or Latino. And in the overwhelming majority of stops—nearly 90 percent of them—police officers didn’t make an arrest or hand out a summons.

99% of the South Bronx is Hispanic or African-American, so that part doesn't really concern me.


The part where they (not surprisingly) constitute most of the stops, or the part where 90% of the time that they're stopped, they aren't given a summons or arrested? The second part is what I take more issue with (except in cases of 'slaps on the wrist' in lieu of citation).

If they aren't giving out citations or arresting people, why should they be able to stop and frisk them at all? It's not exactly a pleasant experience.
posted by nTeleKy at 3:57 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not only is it unpleasant it probably contributes to the perpetuation of difference. From The New Jim Crow:
For black youth, the experience of being "made black" often begins with the first police stop, interrogation, search or arrest. The experience carries social meaning -- this is what it means to be black. ... The reality can be frustrating for those who strive to help ghetto youth "turn their lives around." James Forman Jr., the cofounder of the See Forever charter school for juvenile offenders in Washington, D.C., made this point when describing how random and degrading stops and searches of ghetto youth "tell kids that they are pariahs, that no matter how hard they study, they will remain potential suspects." One student complained to him, "We can be perfect, perfect doing everything right and still they treat us like dogs. No, worse than dogs, because criminals are treated worse than dogs." Another student asked him pointedly, "How can you tell us we can be anything when they treat us like we're nothing?"
Thank god for Google Books
posted by R343L at 4:24 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was with a guy in Greenwich, CT. He was very white. He tried to buy some pot off some African Americans. They were arrested, he was let off.

I was shocked (not really).
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:51 PM on June 4, 2013


If they aren't giving out citations or arresting people, why should they be able to stop and frisk them at all? It's not exactly a pleasant experience.

I agree, I just don't think that it should be any surprise that almost everyone they stop is a minority. It's a stupid practice designed to generate arrests to drive funding. It's bad but, at least in this case, I don't think it's racists.
posted by VTX at 5:21 PM on June 4, 2013


I agree, I just don't think that it should be any surprise that almost everyone they stop is a minority. It's a stupid practice designed to generate arrests to drive funding. It's bad but, at least in this case, I don't think it's racists.

I am completely unable to parse this comment. It is truly amazing to see the lengths people will go to to deny the inherent racism, even while, in the very same comment, clearly laying out an inarguable case that what we have here is racism. Mind blowing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:02 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]






I am completely unable to parse this comment. It is truly amazing to see the lengths people will go to to deny the inherent racism, even while, in the very same comment, clearly laying out an inarguable case that what we have here is racism. Mind blowing.

Pretend you're the captain in charge of the 40th precinct. More arrests=more funding and it makes it look like you're generally good at your job. If you know that lots of the people in the area use marijuana means you just need to catch people with drugs on them and you can get your arrests. I can see where they come up with this dubious "stop and frisk" nonsense. The fact that this is in the South Bronx means that almost everyone stopped will be a minority but it isn't necessarily like someone sat around and said, "You know what would be a good way to harass the brown people? We could just drive around frisk them at random."

In this area, at least, the data alone doesn't show that this practice is driven by racism or even has racist effects just bad cops driven by stupid incentives. 87% of the people stopped were black or Hispanic in an area where 99% of the people belong to one of those two minority groups. If anything, in this one precinct, they're stopping fewer minorities than they should be if it was random. It almost looks like they're going out of their way to look for non-blacks and non-Hispanics to harass.

Even in neighborhoods that are predominantly white, black and Latino New Yorkers face the disproportionate brunt. For example, in 2011, Black and Latino New Yorkers made up 24 percent of the population in Park Slope, but 79 percent of stops. This, on its face, is discriminatory. (Source)

That's racism
posted by VTX at 7:15 AM on June 5, 2013


If you know that lots of the people in the area use marijuana means you just need to catch people with drugs on them and you can get your arrests.

But this doesn't explain why they don't target areas with white people since, as has been made abundantly clear, they are just as likely to be using marijuana.
posted by Danila at 2:10 PM on June 5, 2013


But this doesn't explain why they don't target areas with white people since, as has been made abundantly clear, they are just as likely to be using marijuana.

Isn't the answer that the police aren't targeting marijuana users per se, but that they're concentrating their patrols (and therefore stops) in neighborhoods with higher rates of violent crime?
posted by BobbyVan at 2:45 PM on June 5, 2013


Isn't the answer that the police aren't targeting marijuana users per se, but that they're concentrating their patrols (and therefore stops) in neighborhoods with higher rates of violent crime?

yes, less about lawbreakers, than using as many poor, disenfranchised people as fodder, to bolster up police statistics in order to justify increasing police budget and expansion (power)... this is Giuliani's legacy... he would actually take police off slow moving major narcotics investigations and send them to East NY and other poor (black) neighborhoods with the order to, arrest, and issue citations for everyone insight... and let the judge sort it out. Turning police into farmers.. crime fighting.. well, not so high a priority. War on drugs, war on crime are slogans meant to distract.

Oh, I seriously doubt that his practice would not last long in more upscale (white) neighborhoods...
posted by snaparapans at 3:48 PM on June 5, 2013


But this doesn't explain why they don't target areas with white people since, as has been made abundantly clear, they are just as likely to be using marijuana.

In the case of the 40th precinct, it's because there aren't area with white people. In other areas it's because it just won't work to generate arrests, racism (conscious or not), or because they don't think it will work (also because of racism).

I don't know how the decision on what precincts do stop and frisks gets made or at what level. It maybe that it's made at the level above the precinct chief (or captain or whoever is in charge at the precinct level) and the officers in the 40th precinct got selected as a district to do them in because of all the minorities in that area. I'm not saying that it's not racist, I'm just saying that the fact that nearly everyone arrested in the 40th precinct is a minority doesn't prove it one way or the other and that the decision to do stop and frisks doesn't always have to be driven by racism.
posted by VTX at 6:46 PM on June 5, 2013


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