One Minneapolis

Make Cannabis the Lowest Level Law Enforcement Priority

Making cannabis the lowest level law enforcement priority is one way to greatly reduce racial arrest disparities. In October 2014, the ACLU released a report showing that African Americans are 11.5 times more likely to be arrested in Minneapolis for cannabis possession than whites. [1] While possession of 1.5 ounces (42.5g) of cannabis is currently a petty misdemeanor in Minnesota, the fact that it is a criminal citation means there are far-reaching consequences that do not fit the crime committed.

 

Because citations often show up on background checks, citizens with petty misdemeanors for cannabis possession on their records can miss out on job opportunities that others take for granted. If one is a student and cited for the first time with possession, he or she will lose eligibility for federal student loans for one year (and indefinitely for the third offense). Without a doubt, not being able to get a job or pay for higher education keeps economic and social disparities in place – all for the possession of a tiny flower.

 

Fifteen other cities and/or counties in the nation have directed their law enforcement officers to make cannabis possession their lowest level priority. [2] In Seattle, for instance, cannabis arrests dropped by nearly 75% in the first six months after the policy went into effect. This also means that law enforcement officers can spend more time and resources investigating violent crimes.

 

If Minneapolis is serious about reducing extreme racial disparities, we would be wise to follow suit.

 

[1] http://www.aclu-mn.org/index.php/download_file/view/500/293/

[2] http://www.mpp.org/reports/lowest-law-enforcement.html

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Idea No. 176