Friday, May 14, 2010

Racial discrimination and marijuana arrests

It happens in Australia too -- black people are searched by US police far more frequently than white people and  then those who are carrying cannabis are busted. In the  US, 46,500 people were arrested for marijuana possession last year; 87 percent of these people were black and Latino, even though about the same proportion of whites consume the drug.

Considering that possession of marijuana is in fact less dangerous to the public than walking down the street with a bottle of beer in a paper bag, these figures show how prohibition has distorted the so-called justice system.

It's all explained in a new article on the Huffington Post. by eloquent drug law reformer Ethan Nadelmann who writes:
Where's the evidence that this arrest policy does anything whatsoever to make the city safer? Indeed, where's the evidence that most New Yorkers even approve of such a policy? So far as I can tell, most New Yorkers would much prefer that police focus their attention on genuine threats to public safety.
Australian incarceration rates for Indigenous citizens show similar trends -- according to The 7.30 Report:
The grim report by the productivity commission last week on indigenous disadvantage revealed that for indigenous men, the rate of imprisonment increased by 27 per cent in the years between 2000 and 2008, and for women, by more than 40 per cent. Indigenous adults are now 13 times more likely than non-indigenous adults to be sent to gaol, and they're much more likely to re-offend.
Other reports claim cannabis use is rising among Indigenous people, partly in response to crackdowns on drinking. No doubt cannabis is therefore playing a greater role in people being vulnerable to police. And while some self-interested researchers are raising a moral panic about Aboriginal kids smoking pot,  the fact is that it is easier for them to get under the total deregulation of a market created by prohibition.

As for adult users, by objective assessment they and their families are better off if less booze is being consumed.

Picture: Police in Kings Cross lead a sniffer dog on a tight lead towards an Indigenous man. The man was unconcerned and the dog did not indicate, but it clearly shows how Police target certain demographics. Immediately after this shot was taken, two dog handlers and other police ran down the road to catch up with another (Caucasian) guy and put the dogs on him. No drugs were found. Clearly, drug prohibition is being used as a means of social control and is contributing to cruel social injustice.

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