Marijuana Report: St. Louis Arrests Blacks For Possession 18 Times More Often Than Whites

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In the city of St. Louis, black people are arrested for marijuana possession eighteen times more often than white people.

This is the according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union, which says that law-enforcement agencies in the U.S. waste billions of dollars on racially biased marijuana arrests. On average across the country, blacks are four times more likely than whites to face arrests despite the fact that the two races generally use marijuana at equal rates, the ACLU says.

In St. Louis, the disparity is significantly greater, according to local advocates who cite the alarming eighteen-to-one ratio.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson, however, argues that the data is misleading -- and emphasizes that the city does not ever engage in racial profiling.

See also:
- Report: Black Missouri Drivers Face Disproportionate Number of Police Searches
- Marijuana Reform Now St. Louis Law, Chief Dotson Says Will Improve Prosecutions
- St. Louis Cannabis Conference: Pro-Legalization Cop Says "Public is Waking Up"

"We do not do targeting for marijuana," Dotson tells Daily RFT. "They say there is aggressive enforcement around marijuana laws.... I fundamentally disagree with that.... We're not profiling. We're not going out and searching for individuals to stop."

"We spend a lot of time on training our officers about how not to profile," he continues, later adding, "our goal is fair treatment of all."

Then why do the numbers show such a huge disparity in the city? It depends on whom you ask.

The ACLU argues that across the country -- and especially in states and counties where the disparity between black and white arrests is unusually high -- there is clearly a racial bias. In the national report, on view below, the ACLU specifically highlights the city of St. Louis as an area with a notable problem.

In Missouri, blacks on average are more than 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, the report says, but the ratio of black to white arrests in the city of St. Louis is 18.4 to 1.

"That kind of racial disparity in our policing and criminal-justice system is very damaging," Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, tells Daily RFT. "There is no proof that policing and targeting marijuana possession makes us any safer."

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ACLU-EM
Jeffrey Mittman.

Mittman emphasizes that this report -- an unprecedented look at local data on pot arrests across the country -- should encourage law enforcement and elected officials to acknowledge that current marijuana laws are not working and that reform is necessary.

"We have to find a fairer and smarter way to keep Americans safe," he says. "We all have to start from the basic point that the war on marijuana is a failed war.... Let's get everyone to the table, and let's have an agreement that the current solution is no solution at all."

It's a waste of resources, he argues.

"If we take money away from targeting marijuana possession, that's more money that's available for...targeting violent crime," Mittman says.

Dotson, however, argues that there is a direct link between drug offenses and more serious crimes.

"The fact is that right now, marijuana is illegal," he says, "and there is a nexus from marijuana to other criminal activities, including violence. I don't think it's a waste of money."

If the population of St. Louis city is about half African-American, why, then, is the arrest rate for marijuana so much greater for blacks?

Dotson says that the report does not consider the breakdown of calls for services that the department gets -- as well as the breakdown of bench warrants, referring to individuals who have been arrested but have not gone to court.

He explains that individuals on bench warrants are searched, and if marijuana is recovered, those are reported as new crimes.

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Chief Sam Dotson.

"When we arrest someone, obviously you would expect us to search them," Dotson says. "And quite often...we find illegal substances. We find contraband."

The numbers for bench-warrant arrests have been consistent in recent years, Dotson says, pointing out that in 2012, there were 8,532 African Americans compared to 1,320 whites. And in 2011, it was 9,317 blacks and 1,275 whites in this category.

The department has an obligation to respond to the crimes that are occurring and that the community is asking it to investigate, he says.

"If we look at the crime and found the descriptions of the suspects involved in the crime, it's going to be higher than 52 percent," Dotson says, referring to the percentage of blacks in the city. "Are we profiling them [or] are we doing really good police work and following where the leads and the clues take us?"

Continue for more from Chief Sam Dotson and for the full ACLU-EM commentary and report.



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36 comments
stephenlegette
stephenlegette

If it's Like here in Savannah, The Blacks Flaunt it out in the open.Rolling Blunts on Buses, At Bus Stops ,Sitting in Public Parks & Sind Walks.. While Most whites Do it At hone & under cover of Night.Maybe a Plain Pickup or Car , Not a Pimped out Ride with 20s or 22 spinners.Cause only a Pimp or Drug Dealer going to spend 10 grand on a $1ooo hoopdy,Also More Black Teens  & Adults Smoke That Whites Too Likely 6 to 1. 

James Madison
James Madison

Do blacks smoke weed 18 times more than whites? Perhaps not. But do blacks openly smoke weed more than whites? Do blacks 18 times more than whites sell weed? Do blacks 18 times more than whites carry their weed with them? Next consider that the survey was "In the city of St. Louis..." - had the survey been taken "in the city of Farmington or Winfield, we might have a headline reading "Whites arrested 20 times more often than blacks for having weed."

Bob Cento
Bob Cento

Racist posts like the stuff RFT does only serves to stir up the ethnic problems in STL....

KITTY
KITTY

Yes, and blacks are arrested 90 times more than whites for Murder!

Mary Novack
Mary Novack

Leagalize it and then reap the benefits of taxing it...what a dumb f**king government

Frank Jost
Frank Jost

Maybe they're just 18X less cautious about getting caught? The laws will change in our lifetime.

Jimmie Thomptson
Jimmie Thomptson

oh...those poor put upon blacks...maybe one day one of them will be President of these United States

Curtis Lasky
Curtis Lasky

Maybe because there is more blacks in the city than white people, Duh.

Greg Brown
Greg Brown

Nobody should be arrested over pot.

Jackie Weis James
Jackie Weis James

Arresting anyone for possession of marijuana is a HUGE WASTE OF RESOURCES!!!

John Sarkis
John Sarkis

Although it was used primarily for rope & fiber, prior to the Civil War, Missouri grew more hemp than all other states combined. No reason it couldn't become a big cash crop again.

Brewneaux Welldone
Brewneaux Welldone

I just checked my calender, yep it is 2013 but somehow black folks still just look "guiltier" and weed is still illegal.

Dennis Hanson
Dennis Hanson

It seems to me that the report does not take into account other charges the individual may be facing ontop of the posession charge. In Wisconsin, you are almost always given a disorderly conduct charge just for being arrested! I think the real question is less about being charged over what you were convicted of!

Margaret Booker
Margaret Booker

We have got to get our policing and justice inequities sorted.

Darrell Ford
Darrell Ford

Perhaps most all of the blacks they stop, are weed smokers...just sayin"

David J. Mercer
David J. Mercer

Maybe they are simply more courageous to do it in public!

Sharon Walker
Sharon Walker

Exactly....legalize it. It is time. Not even for smoking....as a cash crop to make all kinds of things. It is an awesome plant...comparable to bamboo. Why are we not cashing in on this? Leave people alone. Give us back our freedom. Stop sin taxing us to death. Let us live in a free America like we are supposed to. Government does not have to have the grubby little hands on every aspect of our lives. Enough is enough.

Andy Knight
Andy Knight

You're jumping to incorrect assumptions, Brian. The stats just say that there are Z whites arrested for possession and there are Z*18 blacks arrested for possession. Nobody is claiming to know how many people possessing marijuana are not arrested. What can be proven by the study is very little, but given historical precedents the police are more likely to search you if you're black, and this would remain consistent with that history.

Jr Moore
Jr Moore

Did you see the size of that joint. A pro rolled that one.

Michael Mahler
Michael Mahler

Maybe we just aren't as obvious or oblivious to our surroundings.

Maggie Madonia
Maggie Madonia

Legalize it and TAX the crap out of. Then lower my taxes!

wump
wump

the real reason is that blacks are much more likely to buy on the street, usually from other black people.  these low level street deals (they are usually teens) sell small amounts and don't usually have enough weed on them to charge them with anything other than possession.  the average person would not even catch a charge, but if the cops know they are selling they charge them with simple possession to get them off the corner.

Esteban Mainzer
Esteban Mainzer

they must have been like "guys...look...we need MORE race baiting this week. REALLY hit it hard!" at the monday meeting at the RFT.

veaseylover
veaseylover

@stephenlegette Everything you just said is a stereotypical lie. All of it. Please do a little research and get some real facts instead of spitting rehashed dribble.

PaulB
PaulB

@KITTY The point is that the rates of marijuana use are the same for whites and blacks.

veaseylover
veaseylover

@Jimmie Thomptson Your privilege is showing.

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