A City that Works

Possessing a Small Amt of Cannabis Should Result in a Civil Fine

Currently in Minnesota, possession of less than 1.5 ounces (42.5g) of cannabis is a petty misdemeanor. While this is certainly preferable to a felony, the fact is that a petty misdemeanor is still a criminal offense with the potential to wreak long-term harm. Repercussions include having the citation show up on some background checks, being banned from taking out federal student loans for a year [1], and not being allowed to rent Section 8 housing. The punishment does not match the crime.

 

There are also indisputable racial disparities in how the law is applied. An ACLU report released in October 2014 shows that African Americans are 11.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites for

 

cannabis possession in Minneapolis. [2] This statistic is based on the Minneapolis Police Department's own data (as reported to the FBI). Another ACLU report from 2013 found that across Minnesota, African Americans are nearly eight times more likely to be arrested than whites. This means the state ranks third in the nation in racial arrest disparities when it comes to cannabis possession. We must fix this.

 

Consider the example of Philadelphia, where 83% of those arrested in 2013 for cannabis possession were African Americans. The city recently tackled its own racial arrest disparities by making possession of 30 grams, or just over an ounce, of cannabis a civil penalty with a $25 fine. In the first month of the new policy in 2014, arrests dropped by 78%. Cannabis possession is criminalized in Minneapolis’ city ordinances (223.70), not just the state’s statutes, so there is no reason why the city of Minneapolis could not follow Philadelphia's example and make simple cannabis possession a civil penalty with a $25 fine.

 

[1] https://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/2014-15-student-aid-eligibility-drug-worksheet.pdf

 

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

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Idea No. 187