In a press conference video, Washington D. C. Police Chief Robert Contee said that
“I can tell you that marijuana, undoubtedly, is connected to violent crimes that we’re seeing in our community… When you have something where people get high reward—they can make a lot of money by selling illegal marijuana—and the risk is low, the risk for accountability is very low, that creates a very, very, very, very, very bad situation because those individuals get robbed, those individuals that shot at, those individuals get involved in disputes all across our city.”
Of course, most major American cities are dealing with increasing violence, probably pandemic related. However, the Drug War is continuing and “more people were arrested for cannabis last year than for all violent crimes put together,” according to FBI data.
Could that number explain the real relationship between marijuana and violence?
Chief Contee is African American, but he still seems to ignore the fact that, as Forbes reports, “In addition to those dwelling in the northeast, those in the black community may also be at particular risk of being arrested for cannabis crimes. A recent report from the ACLU looked at data from 2018, and found that black people were 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people. This is despite the fact that both groups use cannabis at similar rates. Even in western states with recreational cannabis laws, black people were 1.5-1.8% more likely to be arrested for having cannabis. In states with the worst racial disparity in arrests, like Montana and Kentucky, black people were 9.4-9.6% more likely to be arrested. In some counties, disparities were so high, black people were 50 times more likely to be arrested.”
Contee, who is 48, is a DC native, and, as noted is African American (as is roughly half of the DC population) and has been on the DC Police all of his adult life. Consequently, he would seem to be an excellent choice for his job, despite his muddled statement.
Ironically, he complained “This is the same movie when I was a boy growing up here.” Yep. It was called the Drug War, and marijuana prohibition is still a major part of it, despite the city trying to legalize it and despite the opposition of the Federal Government, which ultimately controls D.C.
In 1972, a couple of years before Contee was born, I visited DC and wandered around and found myself at RFK Stadium, where there was about to be a concert by a rock group called “The Rolling Stones”, or something like that. A scalper sold me his last ticket, and – as best I remember- there was some skinny guy dancing around the stage complaining that he couldn’t get no satisfaction. Terrible grammar!
I’m a little hazy on the rest of it, but I am certain that there was no violence despite there being 50 thousand people there smoking marijuana. I have lived in Amsterdam, where I have never seen any marijuana related violence. I have lived in Nevada and in California, where I have never seen any marijuana related violence. Ditto, Austin, Texas. Ditto, Vancouver. Ditto, ditto, ditto!
Contee is complaining about the violence associated with black markets for anything. I’m sure that the African American leaders in Congress who are working on legalization will help him issue a “clarification”. Badly needed.
Meanwhile, to add to the political absurdity, Forbes has a feature article “Billionaire Charles Koch On Why Cannabis Should Be Legal.”
So, Attention MSNBC: White Billionaire Defends Poor African Americans, or something like that.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.