By John Payne
The ACLU report discussed by Anthony Johnson above also delved into local arrest figures, and the authors found that the city of Saint Louis arrests black individuals for marijuana possession far, far more often than white individuals. Nationwide, blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than whites. That's alarming enough, but in the city of Saint Louis, law enforcement arrests African-Americans 18 times more often than whites, despite the fact that African-Americans only constitute half of the city's population!
In February, when the Saint Louis Board of Aldermen held a hearing on the recently enacted decriminalization ordinance, I testified about the racial disparity in the city's enforcement of its cannabis laws. When I told the committee that blacks constituted 92 percent of all marijuana arrests in 2009, many members of the committee were shocked. However, the African-American aldermen and women did not seem so surprised. Alderman Charles Troupe was particularly incensed by the discriminatory enforcement and hoped that the decriminalization proposal would help ameliorate the problem.
With that ordinance now law in Saint Louis, I believe we will see a decline in that disparity. However, the only thing that will fully eliminate unjust and inequitable enforcement of our cannabis laws is to end cannabis prohibition and legalize it for all adults.
Decriminalization is a step in the right direction, but legalization is the only just destination. Help us reach it by contributing now!