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It's Not Just NYC: Across America, Only Black and Brown People Get Arrested for Pot

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New York City, the pot-bust capital of the Western world, is notorious for the racial skewing of its marijuana arrests. Over the last 15 years, more than 85 percent of the half-million-plus people charged with misdemeanor possession there have been black or Latino.

But the racial ratios of reefer roundups are equally extreme-if not worse-in scores of other U.S. cities. In Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, more than 80 percent of the people popped for pot possession are black. In Minneapolis and its Hennepin County suburbs, black people are 11 percent of the population and more than half of those busted for buds.

"Just about every major metropolitan area in the country has similar disparity issues," says Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and former commander of the Maryland State Police's drug bureau.

"With minor variations, it's the same everywhere," says Jon Gettman, a visiting professor of criminal justice at Shenandoah University in Virginia. Gettman, says Allen St. Pierre of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has been researching marijuana-arrest numbers more obsessively than anyone for the last 20 years, extracting them from data in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report.


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