End Mass Criminalization of Black and Brown Youth

End Racism and Discrimination

End Homelessness Now

Expand and Protect Social Security

Support Labor, Jobs for All

The People's Budget

Gender-Neutral Treatment - The Equal Rights Amendment

Thursday, 19 November 2015 00:00

Virginia ramps up its war on pot — and the arrests show a disturbing racial divide

Written by Christopher Ingraham | The Washington Post

As states across the country are relaxing their marijuana laws and federal lawmakers consider doing the same, at least one state is bucking the trend and ramping up its war on pot. Marijuana arrests in Virginia have increased dramatically over the past decade, according to a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that advocates for drug policy reform. And black Virginians account for the overwhelming majority of this increase, causing the racial disparity in the state's marijuana arrests to widen.

"Marijuana possession arrests in Virginia increased from 13,032 in 2003 to 22,948 in 2014," or 76 percent, the report finds. By contrast, the number of marijuana possession arrests nationally decreased by 6.5 percent over the same period. And Virginia's increase in arrest rates is hitting black residents the hardest. In 2003, blacks were 2.4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people. By 2013 this disparity widened, and blacks were 3.3 times more likely than whites to be arrested for pot.


Black and white Virginians use marijuana at similar rates. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, "over the extended period from 2002 to 2009, marijuana was used on an annual basis by 11.3 percent of black respondents in Virginia compared to 9.1 percent of white respondents." In other words, blacks were 24 percent more likely than whites to use marijuana, but an astonishing 233 percent more likely to be arrested for it.

In some Virginia cities, the disparity is much higher. In 2013, blacks were 5.1 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in Norfolk. In Arlington, the black-to-white arrest ratio was 7.8.

Disparities like these have provided much of the momentum for marijuana reform in other localities, most notably DC's successful drive to legalize marijuana last year. Earlier this year, Virginia state senator Adam Ebbin introduced a bill to eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession. "The racial disparity in marijuana arrests in Virginia is deeply troubling, and the barriers that a criminal record brings are particularly worrisome," he said in a statement.

Recent polls show that a majority of Virginians would take Ebbin's bill one step further by legalizing marijuana completely. In April, a Quinnipiac poll found that 54 percent of Virginians support making marijuana legal. Nationwide, nearly 60 percent of Americans support legalization.

But despite this, the arrests rise and costs associated with them mount in Virginia. The ACLU conservatively estimates that Virginia spent $67 million on marijuana enforcement in 2010. That's a big chunk of change the state could be spending elsewhere, especially if you pair it with the potential for tens of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue from fully legal marijuana that states like Colorado are now bringing in.

Beyond that, the data show that all those expenditures on marijuana enforcement aren't doing anything to stem marijuana use rates in Virginia. In 2003, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.1 percent of Virginians said they used marijuana in the past year. By 2011, despite rising arrest rates, that number had increased slightly to 9.7 percent.

"These antiquated and extremely punitive laws, seemingly in a very targeted fashion, have served to devastate scores of individuals, families, neighborhoods, churches and houses of faith in too many of Virginia’s communities," said Jesse Frierson, executive director of the Virginia Alliance Against Mass Incarceration, in a statement on the report.

The Virginia Attorney General's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Link to original article from The Washington Post

Read 4473 times Last modified on Sunday, 29 November 2015 00:38

Latest Economic and Social Justice News

  • 1

Willie Nelson - Keeping the Postal Service Alive

Email President Obama Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

Featured News

  • Veterans Arrive at Standing Rock to Act as 'Human Shields' for Water Protectors +

    As tensions grow in North Dakota, with multiple eviction orders facing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their battle against Read More
  • Michigan Fights To Avoid Delivering Water To Flint Residents +

    The ongoing crisis has left the city without safe drinking water for over two years, but the state claims water Read More
  • The System IS Rigged!—The Electoral College and the 2016 Election +

    Donald Trump was right: the system is rigged! But it is rigged for the Republicans, not the Democrats, for conservatives, Read More
  • BREAKING: Cop Who Shot Keith Scott on Video Will Not Be Charged +

    The Charlotte police officer who killed Keith Lamont Scott will not be charged. In a news conference on Wednesday, R. Andrew Read More
  • Army Corps Says It Won’t Forcibly Evict Standing Rock Water Protectors, But Refuse To Elaborate +

    In a follow-up of its letter to leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes, the U.S. Read More
  • DAPL Investors Getting Antsy: If Pipeline Doesn’t Move Oil by January First the Contract EXPIRES +

    Though water protectors have held their ground at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline for months now, they need Read More
  • WV Supreme Court: No Pipeline Surveys for Private Gain +

    West Virginia property owners won an important case at the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Tuesday when that Read More
  • Clinton Campaign Joins Jill Stein’s Recount Of Votes In Wisconsin +

    Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Saturday announced they would participate in former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s recount of the Read More
  • Sioux Tribe Leader Responds to Army Corps Eviction Letter With Ominous Warning to US Gov’t +

    In response to the altogether shocking announcement the Army Corps of Engineers will be evicting water protectors from the Oceti Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22

Economic and Social Justice Calls

  • 5-4-2016 Economic and Social Justice Call
    The team explores the concept, economic theories and realities of achieving Full Employment in the current economy. Guests include Conor Williams, the secretary of the Transitional Jobs Collaborative in Milwaukee and Michael Darner, Executive Director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
  • 02-03-2016 Economic & Social Justice
    Listen to this month's call led by Jim Carpenter as we discuss the state of our current economy, the impact of poor economic choices, and the other factors that play into the declining situation around the country, and in the world in this open and guided conversation.
  • 01-06-2016 Economic & Social Justice
    PDAction Board Member Donald Whitehead, and former Ex. Dir. of the Coalition for the Homeless leads the discussion on homelessness, with input from Joel Segal, PDAmerica founding member and National Director of the Justice Action Mobilization Network. Special focus is given to the housing crisis, the role of the banks, programs used by other countries to alleviate the problem, as well as the fact that women are the most adversely affected by this issue. H Con Res 98 - Resolve to Eliminate Homelessness - has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12) and is endorsed on this call.