June 10, 2020

Majority of Americans Want Racial Disparities in Cannabis Arrests Stopped

June 10, 2020
racial disparities

Over two-thirds of Americans are aware that cannabis has been weaponized by law enforcement and is being used to target people of color. And they want it stopped.

Oasis Intelligence recently released part of their national cannabis survey in which they polled 20,000 consumers in all 50 states and Washington D.C. from September to December of 2019. The poll showed that fully 76% of cannabis consumers supported expungement for cannabis offenses. 

This number is significantly higher than the 63% support found among the general population reported in the most recent Quinnipiac University poll.

Cannabis Related Arrests

Cannabis-related arrests result in systemic barriers.  The Drug Policy Alliance has documented that out of the 663,367 people arrested for cannabis in 2018, 92% were for simple possession and that people of color were disproportionately targeted. Forty seven percent of those incarcerated were Blacks and people of color, despite representing just 31.5% of the population. 

These racially skewed arrests and incarceration rates mean that Black people are disproportionately more likely to struggle to find decent employment, to be blocked from Federal housing and aid programs like student loans, and can even face restrictions or outright bans on their right to vote.

Recently a federal judge in Florida ruled it unconstitutional to prevent poor felons from voting because they can’t afford to pay back court fees, fines and restitution to victims, striking down parts of a law passed by Republican lawmakers. As of December 2019, 19 states, and now Florida, restored voting rights to convicted felons upon completion of their entire sentences, including prison time, parole, and probation, according to Ballotpedia.

Expungement Programs

Expungement Programs make a big difference.  Though expungement programs are only one piece of systemic change needed to reverse racial disparities, they have been shown to have an immediate and lasting impact.

In that Blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than whites, and in areas like Minnesota and Washington D.C., that difference can run as high as 7.5 to 8.5 times, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). With this many people getting arrested and charged for non-violent cannabis offenses, expungement plays a vital role and can change lives.

“As we watch the 2020 Presidential elections begin to unfold, marijuana legalization will surely remain a key issue for those concerned with our criminal legal system, drug policy, and racial justice,” writes the ACLU. 

The national cannabis survey, which seeks to uncover a wide range of consumer preferences and attitudes around cannabis including social and legal issues, is part of a larger, soon-to-be-released consumer report conducted by Oasis Intelligence.

Thus far, the results have revealed that nearly three-quarters of Americans want the government to stop criminalizing cannabis and start offering expungement to people with past convictions.

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