January 31, 2023

Cannabis Disparities: POC arrest rates

Read Time:2 Minute, 50 Second

It is a well-known secret that the war on drugs was designed mainly to disparage groups of people the U.S government deemed to be problematic. This secret was “uncovered” when President Richard Nixon’s own Assistant for Domestic Affairs, John Erlichman, was quoted saying, “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” when questioned about raids done on target groups and minorities. Since Nixon declared a War on Drugs back in 1971, there has been a high spike in POC incarceration rates and it almost always can be tied back to marijuana related charges. 

Just within the first year into Nixon’s war, about 2.3 million people were arrested on drug related charges, two-thirds of which were POC. These arrests greatly affected POC communities, leaving them more impoverished and under-resourced (EJI.Org). Nixon’s declaration of war was done with the intent to criminalize people of color and vilify them, as they became the scapegoat for rising drug culture in America. This will soon become the trend in America throughout the decades. 

In a study done by Patrick A. Langan, Ph.D. for the Bureau of Justice Statistics, he goes on to explore racial disparities in drug related crimes during the 90’s. At the time, it was estimated that about 40% of persons arrested nationwide were Black. From there, about 49% of them were persons who distributed weed and another 36% were arrested for drug possession from 1991 through 1993. 

Photo by Alesia Kozik from Pexels

Flash forward and these trends still remain. For states like New York, these inequalities are just unbelievable. About 94% of POCs made up for the arrest rates on marijuana related charges back in 2020, according to the Legal Aid Society. These arrests mainly targeted some of the poorest neighborhoods in New York, leading many to question police practices and to call for an end to these unjust and, quite frankly, unfair arrests. These arrests have led many to believe that these rates prove just how racists this War on Drugs is. The Supervising Attorney with the Community Justice Unit at the Legal Aid Society, Anthony Posada, has been quoted saying that, “The data affirm that New Yorkers of color are still overwhelmingly shouldering the brunt of the NYPD’s racist marijuana enforcement.” Posada has gone on to demand that there be an end to this prohibition so that communities can work to heal themselves and prosper from equality. 

Recent studies show that African Americans are arrested about four times more than whites on cannabis related charges and this trend can be seen all throughout America. In 2022, Texas has taken notice that these disparities have been rising greatly since 2017. It has been reported that about 30.2% of marijuana violations are made up by African American groups, even though there is a smaller percentage than that makes up the community. Texas itself is only made up of about 12.9% of black people (Norml.Org). Which just goes to demonstrate the unfair incarceration rates.

We have seen the damages Nixon’s war has caused an impoverished community throughout the decades and the negative stereotypes they have created for people of color. It is time we reform these laws and work towards reevaluating the American psyche.

Sources: Equal Justice Initiative, Bureau of Justice Statistics, AMNY, NORML

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