by David Downs
The NAACP's endorsement Monday of the tax and regulate cannabis initiative in California, now known as Prop. 19, stems from a bombshell of a report that details a statewide pattern of systematic “racism without racists” that targets black people for marijuana arrest. Heavily policing the 'hood puts black youths in cops' crosshairs, where a simple possession charge and $100 ticket starts a rap sheet that leads directly to increased arrest and loss of job opportunities and college financial aid, even though blacks use less marijuana than whites.
"Targeting Blacks for Marijuana" is in many ways the same old story told anew. The study by Queens College sociologist Dr. Harry G. Levine and two peers builds upon the same type of FBI crime statistics analysis he did in New York. This time, he looked at four years worth of arrests in California from 2004 to 2008, some 60,000 marijuana arrests, where he found that:
In every one of the 25 largest counties in California, blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites, typically at double, triple, or even quadruple the rate of whites.
The rate is triple in LA. San Diego and Orange County also heavily target blacks.
The report also finds: “The substantial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates between whites and blacks cannot be explained by their patterns of marijuana use. U.S. government studies consistently find that young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.”
Dope turns out to be stuff white people like, but they do it behind closed doors in the 'burbs, where it goes unnoticed. Levine states that patrolling hot spots typically filled with poor and minorities leads to more opportunistic arrests.
“The item that young people in any neighborhood are most likely to possess, which can get them arrested, is a small amount of marijuana. In short, the arrests are racially-biased mainly because the police are systematically 'fishing' for arrests in only some neighborhoods, and methodically searching only some 'fish.' This produces what has been termed 'racism without racists.'
Cops aren't going after dealers and kingpins either, the report notes.
“Daniel Macallair and Mike Males documented this unprecedented shift by California law enforcement since 1990 — from targeting marijuana manufacturing and sales offenses to targeting low-level marijuana possession offenses. Since 1990, arrests for nearly every serious crime have declined in California. Yet arrests for possession of marijuana, usually for very small amounts, have tripled.”
NAACP president Alice Huffman recognized the war on pot — which has cost $1 trillion and failed, according to an Associated Press study — now as a civil rights issue.
“Under the prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' It is our mission to eradicate injustice and continue the fights for civil rights and social justice wherever and whenever we can.”