Smoking while black
by Anthony D. Romero
July 11, 2013
Never stand on the corner by yourself-that's Alfredo Carrasquillo's first rule about life in the city. But it wasn't enough to avoid getting stopped by the police just for going about his daily life. And when the police found a five-dollar bag of marijuana on him, that meant three days in jail and a guilty plea.
As Alfredo put it, "I'm Black regardless. I can't escape it. And let's be honest. It's not just about smoking. It's also about race." Our new report on the War on Drugs backs him up: even though whites and blacks use marijuana at comparable rates, black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Part of the problem is that when police are seeking out or receiving federal drug war money, they report on arrest numbers, including marijuana arrests. This creates a powerful incentive for police to aggressively go after people like Alfredo with small amounts of marijuana-it's an easy way to get a lot of arrests. Our new report has already been featured in major media outlets including The New York Times, ABC News, and The Guardian-bringing attention to how billions of our tax dollars are funding this wasteful, racially biased numbers game. Now we need to capitalize on this moment so that we can put an end to this injustice.
Urge Attorney General Eric Holder not to reward police for making racially biased, wasteful arrests. Sign the petition to stop including marijuana possession arrests in the performance metrics for state and local police receiving federal money.
Our report reveals some staggering numbers that confirm the failure of the War on Drugs: in just one year, over $3.6 billion in tax dollars were spent to enforce marijuana laws; in a decade, over 8 million people were arrested, without making us any safer.
In a recent speech, President Obama's drug czar aptly said, "we can't arrest our way out of the drug problem."