Op-Ed: Being White is Best Defense Against Marijuana Arrest
According to a new report by the New York Attorney General and an op-ed by Opposing Views’ Jonathan Vankin, the best way to avoid being arrested for marijuana is simply: be white. The AG report detailed the statistics relating to the controversial New York City “Stop-and-Frisk” program and noted that 87 percent of those arrested for pot possession were black and Hispanic. Among the 13 percent of white and Asian arrests, more than half of the arrests were thrown out by the court.
This is nothing new. A recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that 52 percent of all drug arrests in the US are for marijuana and black suspects are arrested at nearly four times the rate as white suspects even though young white people use marijuana at a higher rate than young black people.
It’s hardly a surprise that the justice system has a strong racial bias. The US population is approximately 72 percent white, 12.6 percent black, and 16.4 percent Hispanic. The US prison population, however, is only 34 percent white, 38 percent black, and 20 percent Hispanic. That’s millions of people. The United States imprisons far more than any other nation in the world, including China at 4.3 times the size of our population, with 2.4 million Americans behind bars.
The US prison population has quadrupled over the last 33 years, largely because of the drug war. It’s not that the US is simply convicting more people, it’s that they stay in prison longer because of harsh drug penalties. More than half of the inmates in federal prisons are there because of drug offenses. Among all drug offenses, not just marijuana related, there are five times as many white people using drugs as black people but African-Americans get incarcerated at 10 times the rate.
Among all crimes, not just drug offenses, African-Americans are incarcerated at almost six times the rate of white Americans. An African-American inmate serves an average of 58.7 months in prison, around the same as the average white inmate does for a violent crime (61.7 months).
(Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes)