California is one of the first states to attempt to make right decades of racist drug policies that tore apart families and and destroyed lives. When the voters approved a ballot measure for recreational marijuana, they also allowed those with previous marijuana convictions to apply to have those records expunged. Very few people actually acted on it. So lawmakers last year passed a different measure that ordered prosecutors to review each prior conviction automatically and decide whether to reduce or dismiss the sentences and records of low-level marijuana offenses. Los Angeles marijuana defense attorneys understand this is the very first law of its kind in the U.S.
It is no secret that for the entirety of the war on drugs’ decades-long span, minority communities suffered the devastating impact to a hugely disproportionate degree. Los Angeles marijuana attorneys have watched how these communities are still punished with a cyclical merry-go-round of arrest, limited employment options and poverty. Increasingly, as marijuana legalization gains traction across the country, many advocates are taking it a step further, asking for a remedy for the racist application of law and policy. In cases where those calls have been heeded, criminal records for marijuana dealing and possession are being automatically expunged. There is also help for members of minority groups looking to launch their own California cannabis businesses.
Still, even current enforcement policies aren’t totally equal. In Oakland, where voters passed a ballot initiative to order police to make marijuana enforcement the lowest priority – even lower than jaywalking – evidence showed a decade later police were still arresting black men for criminal marijuana offenses at rates exponentially higher than their white counterparts. The city’s own statistics revealed nearly 80 percent of marijuana arrests in Oakland were African Americans. Four percent were white people, even though the population of the city is 30 percent white. Although legalization of marijuana has slashed the overall number of marijuana arrests, people of color are still police targets.
Even where whites dominate the population, our Los Angeles marijuana attorneys know we still find that black people who sell or use marijuana are arrested at higher rates. This is true despite the fact that data overwhelmingly shows there is very little variation in the percentage of whites v. blacks who use the drug. Take Colorado for instance, which about 85 percent white. As reported by USA Today, this was the first state to legalize marijuana. There, the rate of marijuana arrests plummeted by more than 50 percent in just five years – 12,700 to 6,150, per state data. BUT – arrest rates for African Americans was nearly double that of white people. In Alaska, one-third of marijuana arrests involved black defendants, despite them being just 4 percent of the state’s population.
Los Angeles marijuana defense lawyers point out to people who don’t understand why this is a major issue: Imagine a 15-year-old black teen in Southern California whose father has been locked up in an orange jumpsuit for a decade on minor marijuana charges, only to look across the street and see white men in collared shirts and ties making getting wealthy off the same, out in the open.
That’s the kind of scenario California voters wanted to remedy. It was important to do so expressly because the first states that legalized marijuana recreationally made it difficult for anyone with anything less than a squeaky clean record to enter the market. Now many cities are offering special licensing preference to members of minority communities harmed by the war on drugs.
Other areas are catching on. For example, Maryland decriminalized marijuana in 2014, though police can and do still issue tickets. Of the more than 430 citations issued by police in Baltimore in calendar year 2017 – 95 percent were black. This is despite the fact the black population is 60 percent of the total. More than 40 percent of those citations were issued in primarily black neighborhoods.
Whether you’re trying to have your criminal marijuana record cleared or open up a licensed marijuana dispensary, our team can help.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
New marijuana laws in 2019 could help black and Latino drug dealers go legal, Feb. 21, 2019, By Trevor Hughes, USA Today
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California Cannabis Companies Lament Cash-Heavy Practices With Tax Season in Full Swing, Feb. 22, 2019, Los Angeles Marijuana Attorney Blog