Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Marijuana profiling

This anti-Prop. 19 op-ed in the LATimes is simultaneously a very good, though biased, read on one problem and the most wrong-headed approach to another that I've seen.

Though they use marijuana less, more blacks than whites are arrested for it, a new study shows.

NEW STUDY?!!! For a big city newsrag, you guys don't get out much. Damn, go outside once in a while, willya?

According to the new study, issued jointly by the California NAACP and the Drug Policy Alliance, blacks in Los Angeles are arrested for possession of marijuana at seven times the rate of whites; in San Diego, at six times the rate. In Torrance, the numbers are particularly striking, with blacks arrested at 13.8 times the rate of whites. Indeed, the phenomenon occurs in every county in the state and involves almost every police department. The upshot for those arrested, even if they don't end up in prison, is a permanent record that has lifelong consequences. Most marijuana possession arrests do not lead to long prison sentences these days, but having an arrest record and the stigma of being a "drug offender" negatively affects opportunities for employment and housing and higher education. Such information also is visible to credit agencies, licensing boards and banks. California recently downgraded the charge to an infraction — a positive step — but collateral damage is still likely; the low-income people most commonly arrested would have the most difficulty paying the fines for the infraction — and failure to do so would bring the charge back to a misdemeanor.

Why are blacks arrested at such disproportionate rates? The report concludes that it's not personal prejudice or racism on the part of police officers. The NAACP says it is the result of the long-standing strategy of saturating minority communities with officers who then overzealously stop and frisk people. Were such a strategy pursued in a white community, a high number of arrests would result there as well. The police say they are simply trying protect the citizens in high-crime areas.

I agree with protecting citizens in high crime areas, but that's a possible side effect of the real reason they do it: protecting white citizens from their own fear of black citizens 'coming to get them' by bottling the blacks up in fear of the cops in their own neighborhoods.

Whites would not stand for the type of heavy-handed 'overzealous stop and frisk' methods the cops use in "The Others" neighborhoods and they have the political clout to stop it should it occur. It won't.

Supporters of Proposition 19 say the solution is to legalize marijuana for all. But that's addressing a symptom, not the problem. The real culprit is not marijuana laws but policing practices that vary wildly from community to community. That's why Proposition 19 is not the answer.

Wrongamundo, LATimes. The answer is to do both. We gotta start somewhere, and 'policing practices' ain't on the ballot. I'd say it should be, but as long as white voters are in the majority it will never change, nor will it ever appear on a ballot in places like L.A. where white voters may not be in the majority.

Cops, racial oppression, and jails are the preferred approach over equality, education, and opportunity, but there's a lot more money in the former.

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