Blacks And Latinos Dominate Oakland Marijuana Arrests

Mar 8, 2013

A New Report Also Shows That 20 Per­cent of the Drug Arrests Are Cannabis-Related Despite a City Law That Makes Pot the Low­est Law Enforce­ment Pri­or­ity. Until US Attor­ney Melinda Haag launched her much-criticized crack­down on Oakland’s med­ical mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries last year, the city was held up as a bea­con of level-headed tol­er­ance toward cannabis in the pot-friendly Bay Area.  And even when the statewide cam­paign to legal­ize pot for recre­ational use failed in 2010, city offi­cials were still among the most out­spo­ken in Cal­i­for­nia for large-scale med­ical pot cul­ti­va­tion.  Casual weed smok­ers have also found Oak­land to be a wel­com­ing place: The suc­cess­ful 2004 bal­lot ini­tia­tive Mea­sure Z made adult recre­ational use of mar­i­juana the low­est law-enforcement pri­or­ity for the Oak­land Police Depart­ment. How­ever, a report released last week by the city com­mis­sion that mon­i­tors OPD’s com­pli­ance with Mea­sure Z includes trou­bling find­ings about the racial com­po­si­tion of Oak­lan­ders arrested for marijuana-related crimes.  Accord­ing to the Cannabis Reg­u­la­tory Commission’s bien­nial report, roughly 20 per­cent of Oakland’s nar­cotics arrests in 2011 were for mar­i­juana offenses – and 95 per­cent of arrestees were black or Latino. “In a city as diverse as Oak­land, the com­mit­tee needs to take to heart that the vast major­ity of mar­i­juana offenses are being enforced against minori­ties,” said Sierra Mar­tinez, an envi­ron­men­tal attor­ney who has been a mem­ber of the Oak­land Cannabis Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion since 2011.  “There is a his­tory of the Drug War being enforced against low-income com­mu­ni­ties and com­mu­ni­ties of color, and this is recent evi­dence of that real­ity.” Nation­ally, mar­i­juana use is more preva­lent among whites than blacks or Lati­nos, yet peo­ple of color are arrested far more fre­quently for cannabis use.  And even though more and more states are legal­iz­ing med­ical mar­i­juana – and in the cases of Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton, recre­ational adult use of pot – some­one is arrested for pot-related offenses in the coun­try every 42 sec­onds, accord­ing to an FBI report issued last fall, Of the 452 peo­ple arrested for mar­i­juana offenses in 2011 in Oak­land, 74.5 per­cent were African Amer­i­can, 13 per­cent were Latino, 5 per­cent were white, 3.7 per­cent were Asian Amer­i­can, and 0.4 per­cent were Native Amer­i­can.  Accord­ing to 2010 cen­sus data, Oakland’s pop­u­la­tion is 28.0 per­cent black, 25.9 per­cent white, and 25.4 per­cent Latino. The 452 arrests in 2011, how­ever, rep­re­sented a sig­nif­i­cant drop from 711 arrests in 2010 and 736 arrests in 2009.  The lion’s share of arrests in each year was for pos­ses­sion of mar­i­juana for sale – 275 in 2011, 517 in 2010, and 571 in 2009.  The arrest data was pro­vided to the com­mis­sion by Oak­land Lieu­tenant Michael Poirier. How­ever, the commission’s report noted that OPD’s dra­matic reduc­tion in staffing, Oakland’s spik­ing vio­lent crime rate, and the pas­sage of SB 1449, which decrim­i­nal­ized the pos­ses­sion of less than an ounce of cannabis in Cal­i­for­nia as of Jan­u­ary 1, 2011, as other poten­tial rea­sons for the numer­i­cal drop in arrests. Michael Wil­son of the Alameda County Pub­lic Defender’s office told the Cannabis Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion in Octo­ber 2012 that his office rarely sees marijuana-related offenses.  The few cases the Pub­lic Defender’s Office does deal with, Wil­son told the com­mis­sion, “often have sev­eral other fac­tors involved,” and mar­i­juana use in pub­lic spaces such as a street cor­ner or in a vehi­cle often pro­vides offi­cers with prob­a­ble cause to fur­ther engage or search that indi­vid­ual. Anec­do­tal evi­dence over the years indi­cates that OPD offi­cers have used mar­i­juana offenses as a form of lever­age to bring charges against sus­pected gang mem­bers, either through crim­i­nal court or the mech­a­nisms of parole or pro­ba­tion vio­la­tions.  Court doc­u­ments from the city’s gang injunc­tions in North Oak­land and the Fruit­vale dis­trict showed that sev­eral of the defen­dants in both cases, includ­ing Abel Manzo, one of the main defen­dants who con­tested his gang sta­tus in front of Alameda County Supe­rior Judge Robert Freed­man in 2011, were con­tacted ini­tially by OPD for marijuana-related crimes. “If we detain some­body, they have numer­ous bag­gies of weed on them, they’re on pro­ba­tion for sell­ing weed, we don’t con­sider that a med­ical cannabis offense and they’ll go to jail,” Assis­tant Police Chief Anthony Toribio told the city coun­cil Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee on Feb­ru­ary 26. OPD also has to con­tend with numer­ous ille­gal large-scale grow oper­a­tions in the city.  Sev­eral grow oper­a­tions are dis­cov­ered each year, and some involve heav­ily armed indi­vid­u­als with links to larger crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions.  In late April of last year, OPD arrested eleven peo­ple in a raid on a for­ti­fied East Oak­land ware­house.  Offi­cers seized 2,500 mar­i­juana plants, 50 pounds of dried pot, $40,000 in cash, 7 firearms, and body armor from a build­ing that had inte­rior doors that were rein­forced with steel. Still, Mar­tinez and other mem­bers of the Cannabis Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion believe OPD is still overly con­cerned with a sub­stance that Oak­lan­ders have made clear is not a threat.  Mar­tinez noted that 20 per­cent of all nar­cotics arrests in recent years have been cannabis-related.  “At a time when vio­lent crime in on the rise, it’s a waste of resources to be enforc­ing the mar­i­juana offenses,” he said. The cannabis com­mis­sion also rec­om­mended that the city coun­cil mod­ify its anti-smoking ordi­nance to let prop­erty own­ers allow pot smok­ing “in des­ig­nated rooms of hotels, restau­rants, clubs, cannabis dis­pen­saries, and other facil­i­ties, so long as they are prop­erly ven­ti­lated and do not pose objec­tion­able odor haz­ards to neigh­bors.” Com­mis­sion mem­bers have noted that there is no evi­dence that smok­ing mar­i­juana causes can­cer or emphy­sema, nor is there evi­dence of harm from second-hand smoke. Source: East Bay Express (CA) Copy­right: 2013 East Bay Express Con­tact: http://​post​ing​.east​bay​ex​press​.com/​e​b​x​/​S​u​b​m​i​t​L​e​t​t​e​r​/​P​age Web­site: http://​www​.east​bay​ex​press​.com/ Author: Ali Winston

599a22a5d5odjoe1.jpg 150x89 Blacks And Latinos Dominate Oakland Marijuana Arrests

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Blacks And Lati­nos Dom­i­nate Oak­land Mar­i­juana Arrests

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