Texas Puts a Lot of People in Jail for Weed, Especially Black and (Probably) Brown People

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The Sierra Blanca border patrol checkpoint is, at this point, the stuff of legend: If you're a musician and you pass through there, you're going to get popped for pot possession. You just are. Snoop Dogg, Fiona Apple, Willie Nelson -- all of them drove on Interstate 10, found themselves in that tiny West Texas border town and paid what we can safely dub the Dankness Tax: search, seizure, arrest, brief imprisonment, unflattering stripe-clad portrait.

But as the ACLU recently discovered, the war on pot doesn't limit itself to Sierra Blanca. It's more like the entire state of Texas. According to a new national report they've just released, we're near the top of the list on the numbers of people arrested for pot possession and the amount of money we spend to keep them locked up.

See also:
- Two Texas Lawmakers Have Filed Bills to Decriminalize Marijuana
- A Man Was Caught Trying to Smuggle 75 Pounds of Weed Through DFW Airport

Also, you're about twice as likely to be stopped, searched and arrested for pot possession if you're black in Texas. Except in rural areas, of course, where it's more like 20 times more likely. And Texas isn't even counting separately the number of Latinos arrested for pot possession, which the ACLU suspects is similarly high.

The ACLU looked at FBI stats and census data from 2001 to 2010 to compare the number of pot arrests with the racial demographics of all 50 states. They found 8 million pot arrests nationwide in that time period, 88 percent of which were for possession. Pot possession now accounts for nearly half of all drug arrests. In 2010, someone was arrested for pot every 37 seconds.

And although black Americans and white ones use marijuana at virtually identical rates, black people are nearly 4 times more likely to be arrested than whites nationwide. And even misdemeanor drug arrests can cost thousands of dollars in court costs, fines and probation fees, not to mention the permanent black mark on your record that pops up every time you need a loan, a job or public assistance, among many other things.

In 2010, the two states with the most pot arrests were New York and Texas; we arrested 74,286 that year alone. Texas has also had the greatest increase between 2001 and 2010 in the numbers of people arrested for pot: 20,681 more arrests in 2010. That year, the state paid about $20 million to keep those people locked up in state and county jail facilities.

In Texas, black people constitute only about 12 percent of the population, yet make up more than 25 percent of the pot arrests. You're 2.33 percent more likely to get arrested for potting it up while black in Texas, which is, surprisingly, a lot lower than several other states. In Iowa, for example, black individuals are eight times more likely to be arrested for pot possession. Same goes for D.C. (Incidentally, Hawaii and Alaska have the lowest rates of racial disparity for pot arrests.)

Yet the ACLU believes that Texas and several other states may be artificially decreasing their racial disparity arrest numbers by counting Latinos as white in the arrest data, rather than breaking them out into a separate category. They write that of the 10 states with the lowest racial disparity in arrests, seven of them have the highest Latino populations. In other words, they say:

In these states, a portion, if not a significant number, of marijuana possession arrests are of Latinos, but the FBI/UCR likely classifies them as "white" arrests, thereby reducing artificially the black-white arrest disparities to the extent that Latinos are arrested at higher rates than whites. That is, if many of those "white" arrests are actually arrests of Latinos, and if the Latino arrest rate is greater than the white arrest rate, the actual black-white arrest rates are much greater than the disparities contained in the present data. How much greater, unfortunately, cannot be ascertained from the present FBI/UCR data.

In Dallas County, just in case you're curious (or feeling a little paranoid), you're almost three times more likely to be arrested for potting up while black. That's nothing compared to Van Zandt County, though, where you'd be 34 times more likely to get popped, or Cooke County, where your chance is 24 times greater.

All told, the ACLU estimates that in 2010, Texas spent about $251,648,800 to enforce its marijuana possession laws. Nationwide, the ACLU concludes, the war on pot, like the larger war on drugs is "a failure" and comes at "a tremendous human and financial cost."

But only if you're concerned about things like human and financial costs. Otherwise we're doing just fine.


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78 comments
Obummer
Obummer

Yo let muh bros go; da just be ah unlicensed pharmacist.

buddaily
buddaily

This is just another reason why the only time I've ever been to Texas is once when I was forced to for a business meeting ! Although my brother & his family live in Sugarland I wouldn't waste my time or money in your right-wing,backward,inbred state ! In fact I wouldn't do business with any company located there if I had any choice & I do the purchasing for the corporation I'm employed by now!  Governor Rick Perry is a bumbling jackass & the perfect imbecile to represent typical Texas voters because as that great philosopher Kinky Friedman says - "you can lead a politician to water,but you can't make them think" !!! What else would one expect in a state where the belt buckles are three times larger than the penises of the clueless & ignorant goat ropers wearing them ?

Robert Jones
Robert Jones

no one dies from weed? ask that of the headless bodies and those kidnapped in Mexico never heard from again about that

Marvin Remmers
Marvin Remmers

So, black and brown people smoke weed too? I did not know that. You know, we could probably collect a lot of tax money, if we came up with something similar to red light cameras for weed smokers.

Alejandro Garcia
Alejandro Garcia

My cousin overdosed on weed. Don't smoke weed, it will kill you

Zak Dahlman
Zak Dahlman

Damn those law enforcement agents! How dare the arrest people for breaking the law!

David Hernandez Jr
David Hernandez Jr

I'm sure the numbers for Latinos (Mexicans) are higher than what is calculated because we do make up a large portion of the population. But it's nice that my state likes to not make us look too bad.

Kelly
Kelly

If it really is racist law enforcement going on here, why is it always some group of "bleeding heart" white people doing these racist drug law studies, or being quoted on them, instead of the NAACP?  

Studies show ACLU of Texas is mostly white people: http://www.aclutx.org/who-we-are/staff/senior-staff-biographies/#Terri

Dallas NAACP even has a "Civil Rights" agenda on their website and, oddly enough, the Dallas Observer did not even think to ask their opinion on this study:  http://www.naacpdallas.org/

Just sayin'.  This report would have more credibility if black people were asked about the supposedly racist marijuana law enforcement in their communities.



Greg
Greg

The screamingly obvious explanation is that more black and brown people are handling marijuana in places and situations where police are able to detect their doing so and respond.

If more blacks and browns bought and smoked their weed more privately the rates would be more equal.

But privacy is a monied privilege.

cyrrndr
cyrrndr

Well since pot is still illegal, I can't say as I care who or at what rate people get busted. Tough shit.

StupidHippies
StupidHippies

A lot of black and bown people commit murder in Texas. 

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@Alejandro Garcia No he didn't, and no it won't.

cheyanne1973
cheyanne1973

@Kelly FYI, the NAACP has expressed support in other state chapters and was instrumental in helping pass legislation for a legal market in both Colorado and Washington. WHO is reporting should not make any difference as to how wrong it is. Was it only black people who changed slavery laws? Only Jews who brought Hitler down? I don't understand what damned difference it makes who brings it to the attention of the public.

CornyDoggy
CornyDoggy

@Greg 

That's actually a pretty good point.  Race aside, we're ruining way too many lives over the consumption of a non-harmful plant.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

I think a better reason is the police are finding pot where they are looking for it.

Daniel
Daniel

@Greg I think this is a big part of the discrepancy.

JustSaying
JustSaying

@Greg Maybe the THC makes white people more paranoid than their black or brown counterparts. All the dopesmokers I know never leave the house with it.

cheyanne1973
cheyanne1973

@cyrrndr Is that how you felt when women couldn't vote? it's illegal so I don't give a shit? When black people were enslaved? Oh well, that's just how it is... Tough shit. Gee, I wonder how these type of inequalities get resolved... not by people saying I don't care, that's for damned sure.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@cyrrndr Yeah, let's not think about how we could change things for the better. Let's just take a short-cut to thinking by saying, "Well since pot is still illegal, I can't say as I care who or at what rate people get busted. Tough shit." The underlying question here (which should be obvious to anyone with half a brain) is "What would happen if it weren't illegal?" Would we save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars? Seems that way. Would thousands of people be better off if they weren't arrested for this penny ante crap? Maybe. Try thinking a bit about the issue before you spout off.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@StupidHippies A lot of religiously zealous white women kill their children in Texas.

Is this some kind of vague contest?  Do I get points? Did you have a point?  I mean, one that reflects on the story at hand?

ddaniel2006
ddaniel2006

@StupidHippies @Kelly Yeah... cause smoking weed makes you violent... hippies were the worst of these violent weed smokers huh? Another sheep believing everything the gov't says on any subject.

Daniel
Daniel

@greg P.S. Also being able to afford a good lawyer.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@JustSaying @Greg my white pot smoking buddies, never carry outside the house, my dark skinned friends are always the ones bringing it to the bar or parties, this, as you suggest probably has a lot more to do with it than anything else, and I dont normally see white guys working drug corners in the know drug areas, most of them do it from their home as well

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@CogitoErgoSum @cyrrndr man if pot were legal and we didnt arrest all these illegal pot smokers, could you imagine the unemployment rate.  Since they are in jail we dont get to count them as unemployed

ddaniel2006
ddaniel2006

@StupidHippies @ddaniel2006 @Kelly Greed not weed moron, no one killed someone because they took a $20 sack from someone. And killing people over a substance is not the same as the substance killing you, I've seen stories of drunks getting into fights and accidentally killing one or the other. Why aren't you here posturing for alcohol being criminalized? Cause you're an idiotic troll, nothing you say make sense sir. They're killed over money and that's been going on since the idea of money was invented, yet I don't see you fighting to drop the useless paper dollars we use for "value" in this country, imagine that? LMAO sheep bah bah bah

StupidHippies
StupidHippies

@jetdoc1 So when you "legalize/decriminalize" and have your pothead utopia.. what will all the violent blacks and mexicans that are murdering each other do for employment then? Work in the "medical marijuana dispensary?" You want to take away the only source of employment for vast numbers of minorities? What are you racist? 


Also: Your rando CAPS lock TOURRETTES typing makes YOU look like a LUNATIC that NO one will ever TAKE seriously

jetdoc1
jetdoc1

@StupidHippies @ddaniel2006 @Kelly Mostly by Law Enforcement OR the Cartels however!  Legalize/Decriminalize and allow Americans to use it, freely....   would ANNIHILATE the Cartels and therefore the Violence you speak of as well.  When's the last time you've heard of any Bootleggers having a SHOOT out for "Market Share" with Sam Koch of (Samuel Adams fame)?  I may have missed it but I doubt they've taken on Annheuser Bush either.  Get PAST the "Chicken Little" attitude and read the SCIENCE!!!  Our Drug laws FLY in the face of common sense!  Cannabis has been considered a MEDICINE for 5000 yrs....  until the US Govt. in 1937 and decided to LIE to the people about the efficacy of Cannabis as a medicine

dfwheathen
dfwheathen

@Daniel @greg I think the lawyer has more to do with it than doing it in public. I find white people to be more bolder than minorities as far as smoking in public. Either way it is a monied priviledge.

cheyanne1973
cheyanne1973

@ScottsMerkin @cheyanne1973 @cyrrndr how is it a stretch? Explain that to the ACLU buddy... civil rights are civil rights... and treating people unequally to meet your quota of arrests is damned sure something to be concerned about. Breaking up families and altering futures keeps people down individually and harms society as a whole. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@scottindallas well, when you got your drug arrest, was the drug illegal, yep.  So sorry for ya, regardless if you believe it should be legalized or not, you broke the law. It sucks yep, but be smart about your weed usage and you should be ok

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin @CogitoErgoSum @cyrrndr Having "DRUG ARREST" for a deferred possession on the top of your driving record for ten years certainly doesn't foster employment.  Especially when you can rightly state that "you've never been convicted" of drugs or any other serious crime. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

I, too have been pretty fallow. This Top Commenter designation adds a lot of pressure.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

yeah, it fell pretty flat, cant be funny all the time I guess, glad you caught the sarcasm, I think its a bad comment now that I re read it

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Bad joke, Merks. The Jailed unemployed are still unemployed, regardless whether they make it into a report, and they are getting room and board, but cannot search for a job.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Dark they were, and golden eyed

observist
observist topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @_mm_ Your sons aren't exactly brown, aren't exactly white... they're Golden.  ;-)

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@_mm_ The interesting thing about racial statistics, for the purposes of crime rates, Hispanic is not a race. So, the 'browns' as the oh so racially sensitive and politically correct Unfair Park terms them, are counted in with either the Whites or the Blacks. (or, named in the mysterious 'unknown' category)  This is not true for other functions based on race.

For instance, my sons qualify for numerous educational and health benefits due to being hispanic.  However, if they're popped for committing a crime, it will go down as a 'white'.  I'm not complaining or passing judgement on the system, just pointing out one of the inconsistencies that make crime statistics useless.

Kelly
Kelly

@_mm_ But latinos are also counted as white by the UCR according to the ACLU in the article.  Also what percentage of population is "white white" compared to blacks and "white" latinos?  Just saying there is a lot higher crime rate in South Dallas than Frisco, which means a lot more police presence and therefore more people getting busted for pot.  Oh, while waiting in the parking lot of boyfriend's apartment, I was harassed by a black female police officer for being a suspected drug dealer and she was the one wearing dredlocks and had a crackhead attitude when I wouldn't let her search my car.

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