Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs. Again.


A recent study confirms what has long been known, that black people and white people use drugs at very similar rates. Blacks use marijuana at a slightly higher rate than whites, but whites are more likely to use cocaine (except crack), heroin and hallucinogenic drugs. This chart shows it all:

drug_use_by_race

Yet the rates of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment are vastly biased in favor of white people:

drug_arrest_rates

And more than 80% of all drug arrests are for possession, not selling. This is a direct result of political decisions being made. Law enforcement focuses nearly all of its efforts on the inner city and low-level “criminals,” not on the college kid selling weed to his friends or the corporate lawyer doing coke in the executive men’s room. It destroys lives and families and it needs to stop.

Comments

  1. Pen says

    Yes. Preferably by legalising marijuana and taking a non-punitive approach to other forms of drug possession. But we all know what stands in the way. Profiteering from prison labour makes it expedient to criminalise an activity many people engage in. Leaving middle-class white people and their children out of that picture avoids creating a powerful unified backlash against that practice.

  2. D. C. Sessions says

    It destroys lives and families

    In other words, it’s working as intended.

  3. dingojack says

    Pen – … and don’t forget law and order gets your political candidate (re)elected!
    Dingo

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    There in Black and White.

    Injustice.

    Legalise all drugs and make addiction merely a medical issue already, okay?

    After all, alcohol and nicotine and caffine are all justlegaland dandy and not to mention an overdose of panadol can be really deadly too. (Do NOT try it.)

  5. says

    Well, sure, the War on Drugs does have some fallout, but isn’t it all worth it to Keep Our Children Safe? Look, you can’t make an omelet without breaking somebody else’s eggs.

  6. sabrekgb says

    “It destroys lives and families and it needs to stop.”

    Agreed. I think it’s likely that we’ll see decriminalization of pot at the federal level within 5 years. It’s not enough, even if it happens, but it’s a start.

  7. jameshanley says

    And more than 80% of all drug arrests are for possession, not selling.

    Well, it’s easier to prove possession than intent to sell. And it’s cost-effective for prosecutors to plea-bargain defendants down from distribution charges to possession charges.

    I think police are mostly trying to target those they think are selling, more than targeting just users (not that they don’t target them, too), but for those two reasons, most end up charged with possession.

    Not that I think targeting drug sellers justifies the racial disparity in any way. Hell, not that I even think drugs should be illegal in the first place.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    sabrekgb @ # 6 – Do you really think that (as the situation looks at present) either President Clinton (2) or Pres. Bush (3)/Romney (1) would not veto such a measure even if it somehow got through Congress?!?

  9. D. C. Sessions says

    Well, it’s easier to prove possession than intent to sell. And it’s cost-effective for prosecutors to plea-bargain defendants down from distribution charges to possession charges.

    Last I checked, possession of one seed gets turned into “possession with intent to sell,” which then may get plea bargained down to simple possession.

  10. Holms says

    It destroys lives and families and it needs to stop.

    Not at all! It destroys the lives of black people thugs, but not the lives of white people people. Key difference.

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