Racial Disparity and Trickery in Marijuana Arrests

July 29, 2010 | Newsmakers, Queens College

Not only are blacks and Latinos disproportionately charged with marijuana possession in New York City, the tactics used by the police are questionable, says Harry Levine, a professor of sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center. In his report, “Marijuana Arrest Crusade: Racial Bias and Police Policy in New York City,” Levine found that between 1997 and 2009 nearly nine out of ten people charged with possessing marijuana came from the two groups, the majority being African Americans, even though national surveys show whites to be the heaviest users. Levine points out that possession of seven-eighths of an ounce, or less, of the drug in New York is a violation, not a crime. “But if that marijuana is open to the public view–meaning someone had been told by the police to take it out of their pocket–then it becomes a crime. The cops are allowed to trick people.”
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