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Study shows a disparity in marijuana arrests based on race

A recent study taken in the greater Tampa area shows black individuals are arrested for marijuana possession much more often than white and Hispanic individuals. The study also shows that the arrest rate for black people in these local counties is nearly double that of the national average.

The study revealed a clear imbalance in the arrest rate when simply considering the percentages. While 10 to 12 percent of both races use marijuana at least one time per month, black people are arrested six times as often as the others. Why is the rate so high? The study examines some possibilities as to why black people account for so many more arrests.

The study considered the possibility of open-air dealing. Black offenders are more likely to be seen out in the neighborhood streets or on sidewalks handling and selling marijuana. In turn, law enforcement pays particularly close attention to these problem areas. This yields a greater probability that offenders will be caught. Conversely, white offenders may be more inclined to lay low and be more secretive.

Age demographics could also be a factor. Statistics show that individuals between the ages of 18 and 45 use the most marijuana. In the Tampa metro area, the black community constitutes a higher percentage of that age range than the white and Hispanic communities.

With the recent national interest in racial issues and crime, local law enforcement has definitely made a note of the disparities. In fact, the Justice Department has looked into situations where there was a disparity of members of a particular race in other states.

They look at intent but also whether the disparity could have been avoided. But, the officers that were interviewed assertively stated that race plays no role in marijuana possession arrests. Rather, they continued to reiterate that public safety is their primary concern regardless of what the numbers may show.

If you are an individual who has been charged with drug possession or you know someone who has, it might be a good idea to speak with an attorney to better understand your rights.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Blacks disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession in Pinellas, Hillsborough counties," Stephen Nohlgren and Kameel Stanley, Sept. 27, 2014

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