Sacramento, CA: African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession offenses in California's 25 largest counties at more than twice the rate of Caucasians, according to a report released this week by researchers at the Queens College, City University of New York and Shenandoah University in Virginia.
Authors reported that African Americans are less likely than whites to use cannabis, but are far more likely to be arrested by police for possessing it.
"Young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites. Yet from 2004 through 2008, in every one of the 25 largest counties in California, blacks were arrested for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites, typically at double, triple or even quadruple the rate of whites," they determined. "[B]acks were arrested for simple marijuana possession far out of proportion to their percentage in the total population of the counties. In the 25 largest counties as a whole, blacks are 7% of the population but 20% of the people arrested for possessing marijuana.
Overall, authors reported that in 2008 African Americans and Latinos combined comprised less than 44% of the state's population, but together constituted 56% of the people arrested in California for possessing marijuana. An estimated 80 percent of those arrested were age 29 or younger.
Citing the report, leaders from the California chapter of the NAACP on Tuesday expressed its "unconditional support" for Proposition 19: The Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Initiative 2010, which would allow adults 21 years or older to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. It would also permit local governments the option to authorize the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis to adults. Personal marijuana cultivation or not-for-profit sales of marijuana would not be taxed under the measure.
Alice Huffman, President of the California State Conference of the NAACP stated: "We have empirical proof that the application of the marijuana laws has been unfairly applied to young people of color. ... We are joining a growing number of medical professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, local municipalities, and approximately 56% of the public, in saying that it is time to (depenalize) the [adult] use of marijuana."
Aubry Stone, president of the California Black Chamber of Commerce, also spoke in favor of the initiative – arguing that its passage would allow local governments to reallocate law enforcement resources toward other public services.
In 2008, police in California made over 61,000 arrests for marijuana possession offenses, a criminal misdemeanor. Law enforcement made over 17,000 additional arrests for marijuana felony violations – a category that includes personal cultivation of even a single plant.
Full text of the report, entitled "Targeting Blacks for Marijuana: Possession Arrests for African Americans in California, 2004-08," is available online at: http://www.drugpolicy.org/docUploads/Targeting_Blacks_for_Marijuana_06_29_10.pdf.