Black Suspects Are Cited for Pot Nearly 4 Times as Often as Whites in L.A.

Black Suspects Are Cited for Pot Nearly 4 Times as Often as Whites in L.A.
File photo by Gustavo Turner/L.A. Weekly

White privilege doesn't exist.

Sure.

White privilege endures despite our best efforts at eradication. In 2010 California's then-governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a onetime pot smoker himself, signed legislation that reduced possession of an ounce or less of cannabis to a ticket-worthy infraction.

No more handcuffs, especially for the people of color often targeted for pot-possession enforcement.

But even after that law was enacted in 2011, marijuana infractions issued to African-Americans still outpaced those of whites in Los Angeles, according to a new analysis by the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU.

This is happening despite evidence that pot use was "similar across racial and ethnic lines," the DPA said in a statement today.

"In Los Angeles, approximately 1 in 532 black people are cited for a marijuana possession infraction as compared to 1 in 1,351 Latinos and 1 in 1,923 white people," the nonprofit stated.

Young people also were targeted disproportionately, despite evidence that marijuana use among older people is on the rise.

A majority of infractions went to suspects 29 years old or younger, the analysis found.

"It’s likely that young black and Latino Californians experience these disparities statewide," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, criminal justice and drug policy director for the ACLU of California. "A $100 citation can easily become several times that, after all the fees are added. This presents a significant burden for young people and low-income families."

What's the solution? Take the ticket book away. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, likely to be on the November ballot, would allow Californians 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of weed.

"It is disappointing to see that even at the level of infractions, California law enforcement are incapable of applying the law equally across racial lines," said Alice Huffman of the NAACP. "I am hopeful that full legalization as proposed in the Adult Use of Marijuana Act will drastically reduce the numbers of young people of color being funneled into the criminal justice system for minor drug offenses."

Police groups oppose the initiative. They seem to like the status quo — which includes busting the young and people of color at higher rates than whites.

You have the ultimate say. But you need to vote.


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