The racist enforcement of drug laws in Washington

Other posts on Marijuana which might be interesting:

Original blog post

The initiatives which won in Washington and Colorado that legalized recreational marijuana use have histories.  In the case of Washington part of the history was state drug busts were statistically significantly weighted against persons of color.

  • From 2001‐2010, blacks, Latinos and Native Americans were 14% of the state’s residents, but they were 25% of the people arrested for marijuana possession.
  • In comparison to an eighteen year‐old white male driver, the eighteen‐year‐old Native‐American male driver is four times more likely to be searched;African American and Hispanic search rates are much higher as well.

While the end of recreational marijuana busts in these states should reduce one vehicle for racist police behaviors, having identified these police behaviors we should look for other areas where it is continuing to happen and correct these as well.

These states have asked the Feds how they are going to respond and have not yet heard an answer.  In Washington 220 possession cases that were in the pipeline have been thrown out.

post 2012 election marijuana status by state

Light green – State with legal medical cannabis.
Medium green –  State with decriminalized cannabis possession laws.
Dark green –  State with both medical and decriminalization laws.
Purple – State with legalized cannabis.

It is still almost every reasonable persons hope that the three judge panel reviewing the reclassification of marijuana away from Category 1 will be swayed by the tremendous evidence of health benefits.  Even Business Insider is touting the health benefits.  From here this may move us to a place where there can be a federal tax on sold marijuana (as there is for $1.20 per pack on cigarettes).  In Washington state recreational legalization got 50K more votes than a popular Obama did.  Obama can take an easy liberalization step with a revenue advantage, or not.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

10 responses to “The racist enforcement of drug laws in Washington”

  1. Ashborn says :

    I agree with you regarding legalization. Glad it is finally happening with popular support.

    I disagree drug laws are “racist”. Crimes are not evenly distributed throughout the population. Criminals of particular populations “specialize” in certain crimes, just as law abiding folk from particular countries gravitate to certain legal occupations as well. Is it “racist” that RICO laws initially affected Italian mafia types, that revenue agents find white hillbillies with whiskey stills, or when Russian gas station owners are caught evading taxes? The law is the law. Anyone can choose to obey it or not. If someone is dumb enough to break the law and get caught, don’t blame racism.

    Calling anything you disagree with or find unjust “racist” weakens your argument and disparges actual acts of racism.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Ashbom:

      i would agree with your reasoning, if it were not for the information which is in the report that usage rates for marijuana amongst the different racial groups show that whites are more likely to be smoking marijuana than non-whites. So it is not like the RICO laws and the italian mafia.

    • paxus says :

      And to be clear, i do not think the laws are racist, i think the enforcement of these laws is conducted in a racist way. Which the report linked on the blog post shows statistically. And there need to be other ways than statistics to demonstrate these things.

      • Ashborn says :

        Pax – Actually the report you cited never even mentions the word “racist”. It does say the following, to quote:

        “we do not think that most racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests can be explained by explicitor overt personal prejudice on the part of individual police officers.

        Police departments in cities and large towns tend to deploy patrol police to
        certain neighborhoods or geographic areas usually designated “high crime” or “crimeprone.” These are disproportionately low‐income areas, some with concentrations of Latinos and blacks… ”

        I’m very glad that marijuana has been legalized in two states. But part of the reason it has been so difficult to legalize marijuana (despite the failures of drug-war policies) may be in part due to inflated claims of activists. For example, I’d be more careful in claiming there are “health benefits” to smoking pot. The other article you cited mentions claims pot smoking to be a remedy for 200 maladies, sounds a bit like a snake-oil salesmanship to me.

        Abuse of pot can cause enormous problems to an individual, albeit not as serious problems as can alcohol abuse or use of other drugs. A more effetive endorsement of marijuana legalization might avoid charges of racism or claims of medical cure-alls and instead focus on the issues of freedom and enormous costs of enforcing drug laws.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Ashbom:

      You are wise to counsel more precision on my part. It is my interpretation of the data that these behaviors were racist – that does not feel a stretch to me,
      it feels definitional. I also hype the saved law enforcement costs and reduced prison costs and potential tax revenues. i could push the freedom of choice more than i do.

      Paxus on the English Channel

  2. bentokin says :

    I found this blog via a link from my fb feed for the Legalizing Marijuana! group. It has about half a million likes, so lotsa’ peeps saw it. 🙂 Hope that clears the air (pun intended). =D

  3. Donnie says :

    Does anyone know anything about weed being legal in Kentucky??

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