web analytics

Black and white Americans use marijuana at roughly equal rates, but black users are nearly four times more likely to be arrested [Lawyers.com]

Black and white Americans use marijuana at roughly equal rates, but black users are nearly four times more likely to be arrested
[Lawyers.com]

A Louisiana man was sentenced to 20 years in prison earlier this month for possessing 15 grams of marijuana, barely over half an ounce.

Corey Ladd, 27, was sentenced in New Orleans on September 4; he had prior drug convictions, reports Bill Quigley at AlterNet. As a “multiple offender,” he was sentenced to “20 years hard labor at the Department of Corrections.”

“A sentence of 20 years in prison for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol is out of step with Louisiana voters, national trends, and basic fairness and justice,” said Karen O’Keefe, a former New Orleans resident who now works as director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

“Limited prison space and prosecutors’ time should be spent on violent and serious crime, not on prosecuting and incarcerating people who use a substance that nearly half of all adults have used,” O’Keefe said.

Karen O'Keefe, Marijuana Policy Project: "Quote"

Karen O’Keefe, Marijuana Policy Project:
“Limited prison space and prosecutors’ time should be spent on violent and serious crime, not on prosecuting and incarcerating people who use a substance that nearly half of all adults have used”

Marijuana prohibition is unfortunately enforced in a very racially discriminatory manner, in Louisiana and elsewhere. A 2013 report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “The War On Marijuana in Black and White,” documents millions of cannabis arrests and shows the “staggeringly disproportionate impact on African Americans.”

Almost exactly half of all drug arrests are for marijuana, according to the latest numbers from the FBI. That means more than 762,000 cannabis arrests per year.

Blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, but blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, according to the FBI’s own numbers.

Louisiana arrests about 13,000o people every year for pot; 60 percent of those are African Americans. More than 84 percent of those arrests are for possession only.

While the population of Louisiana is 32 percent black, 60 percent of marijuana arrests are of black people, making it the ninth most discriminatory state nationwide when it comes to pot busts, according to the ACLU.

It’s even worse in Tangipahoa Parish, where blacks are 11.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than are whites; and in St. Landry Parish where the rate for African American arrests for cannabis is 10.7 times as high as that for whites. Both parishes are among the worst 15 in the entire nation, according to the ACLU.

A first-time marijuana arrest can land you in jail for six months in Louisiana. A second bust can get you up to five years, and you can get up to 20 years for a third marijuana arrest.

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently decided a sentence of five years was too lenient for a man convicted for a fourth possession of marijuana, and ordered the guy sentenced to at least 13 years.

But the winds of social change, when it comes to public attitudes towards marijuana, are blowing, even over Louisiana. A recent survey from Public Policy Polling found that more than half of Louisiana residents support the legalization and regulation of cannabis.