Local beat cops just love busting stoners. Really, it’s probably a pretty easy racket. They rarely fight back, and in many cases the arresting officer can score a 2-for-1 by nabbing a minority carrying some weed. That may sound harsh, but statistics have shown for quite some time that pot busts – particularly those involving minorities – are the low hanging fruit in the world of law enforcement.
A review of the first six months of the new marijuana laws in Seattle, Washington has revealed equally disturbing numbers and trends. And shocking nobody, law enforcement spokespersons in America’s fastest growing city are showing little sympathy for the terribly skewed results.
The fight to legalize marijuana, be it on a medical or recreational level, faces different challenges depending on which part of the country it is being proposed. One constant in the debate, regardless of geography, is a staunch opposition from local law enforcement.
In Seattle alone, with the possession of cannabis for recreational use finally legalized, police made 82 weed-related arrests between January 1st and June 30th. Of those 82 arrests, only one was a repeat offender. The average age of those arrested was 34 years old, though even a 77 year old got busted for blazing the buddha.
It’s bad enough that 82 people had their lives shaken up over a plant, after that plant was legalized by the will of the voters in 2012. But even a cursory glance at the figures released yesterday shows that 34% of the arrests made were African American males.
Only 8% of the population of Seattle is black, yet over 1/3rd of all weed-related arrests involve African Americans.
On top of that indefensible stat, a full 46% of those arrested were homeless!
While marijuana possession and use was legalized in 2012 by Washington voters, fines – and apparently arrests – can be dealt out for those who consume the herb in public.
So, with apparently no real crime happening anywhere in Seattle, local cops have taken to shaking down the less fortunate and harassing undue amounts of minorities.
Loren Atherly is a Criminologist with the Seattle Police Department, and he has been tasked with spinning Wednesday’s damning report as positively as possible for his colleagues. He says that the numbers of homeless people arrested are skewed because they are more likely to be found breaking the laws in public…since, ya know, they have no home.
Atherly says that the statistics released this week are pre-mature, and that more telling data should unfold as retail pot shops begin to proliferate in the region under the new laws.
He compared the public consumption pot arrests to open-container laws with alcohol, but when pressed for stats showing how booze-related arrests broke down by race and demographics, Atherly quickly admitted that he had not seen or studied any such data.
In the meantime, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and progressive City Council member Nick Licata see the statistics as no laughing matter, and they have both made recommendations to the city that the arrest breakdown needs to be closely monitored.
Additionally, they have suggested that accommodations be made or allowed for businesses and locations where enjoying weed can be legal.
The rest of the country, and indeed the world, is looking to Colorado and Washington to set the bar for nearly all things cannabis related. How fairly they choose to enforce their own laws in Washington will ultimately define the role of law enforcement in the minds of generations to come.