Strange Fruit: ACLU Says African Americans Disproportionately Arrested for Marijuana Possession

A report by the ACLU this week confirmed what many of us already suspected: Although marijuana usage is similar between black and white folks, black people are more likely to be arrested for possession (in some counties, much more likely). 

In the nation as a whole, black people are, on average, 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for pot than white people. Zoom in to Kentucky, and you’re six times more likely to be arrested for possession if you’re a person of color (Kentucky’s disparity is among the largest; only four states and the District of Columbia were worse).

To help make sense of these numbers, we spoke this week with Amber Duke from the Kentucky ACLU. She says the disparity largely has to do with larger police presence in certain parts of town – usually African-American neighborhoods. So although crime rates may be similar, there are more cops around to see them.

Plus, when someone is found with a small amount of marijuana, it’s up to the officer’s discretion whether to issue a citation or take the person to jail. Any time you have discretion of this kind, officers’ own prejudices can come into play.

Given the staggering amount of resources we pour into the “war” on marijuana (Kentucky spent $19.5 million in 2010 on marijuana enforcement) it’s fair to wonder whether this is money well spent or money spent on racially biased law enforcement activity. 

Also this week on our Juicy Fruit segment, we talked about the heckler and Michelle Obama, and why a white lady was so “taken aback” when the first lady politely but firmly asked her to stop yelling while Mrs. Obama tried to give a speech at a fundraiser about children. 

And we learned about Louisville’s first-ever Derby City Black Pride Weekend, going on this weekend, and co-founded by our very own Jaison Gardner!

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