The Racial Impact of Marijuana Laws

One aspect of making additional marijuana laws that are often overlooked in rural, or less urban areas is the racial impact they have on society. The enforcement of marijuana laws generates some of the justice system’s starkest racial disparities. “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” a landmark report from the ACLU, details the staggering racial bias and financial waste of our country’s counterproductive fight against a drug widely considered less harmful than alcohol. The excuse that marijuana is a gateway drug is a widely debunked theory. *In the United States, between 2001 and 2010, a black person was almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person was, despite approximately equal rates of use. That needs to be repeated... despite approximately equal rates of use. In some states and counties, blacks are 8, 10, or even 15 times more likely to be arrested, mainly because of the concentration of law enforcement in lower-income or poor areas. Lower-income people, regardless of ethnicity, are more likely to be financially devastated by the disparate enforcement of such laws. They are less likely to afford bail. That, in turn, means that someone living from paycheck to paycheck who cannot afford to pay a small bail faces losing employment, housing, even their families as they wait the average 3 months of incarceration before even having a court hearing. The main purpose of bail is to ensure appearance in court and protect society. Not many people would argue that the average marijuana users are dangerous. However, holding someone on bail has another unlawful purpose; revenue. One of the reasons that some in law enforcement favor the laws is just for that reason; to continue the revenue flow from incarceration. Many jurisdictions depend on that revenue as a large portion of their budget. That is wrong. That is not how our justice system should work. *Marijuana Law Reform ACLU

Submitted by Gerald Hampton, a Wicomico County Resident

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