Why are marijuana arrests higher for Virginia blacks than whites?

A recent investigation carried out by the Capital News Service suggests that black Virginians are three times more likely than their white counterparts to be charged with marijuana-related crimes.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers looked at the marijuana-related arrest rate in Richmond's Hanover County. Of the 88,000 self-reported Caucasians that reportedly live there, just under 250 out of every 100,000 of them were arrested for marijuana-related offenses in any given year.

In contrast, there are just under 10,000 self-reported African-Americans in the city. Their arrest rate for marijuana-related offenses was found to be nearly 1,800 per 100,000.

Researchers warn that this discrepancy in arrest rates shouldn't be thought of as a unique to Richmond. Instead, they note that just as black Virginians were shown to have six times the arrest rate of their white counterparts, the statewide statistics show similar figures.

In analyzing 160,000 state and local arrest records between 2010 and 2016, researchers found a statewide uptick in terms of arrests of African Americans during that period from 2.9 to 3.2 percent.

The researchers warn that this disparity shouldn't be taken to mean that blacks are any more likely to use marijuana than their white counterparts. In fact, other studies show that both groups use the drug at virtually the same rates.

The lead researcher on the study suggests that the rate disparity has to do with the fact that police activity and presence tends to be highest in predominately black communities. They also note that arrest rates of black citizens are highest along the Interstate 95 corridor where there is a disparate number of out-of-towners arrested.

Despite the fact that the District of Columbia and nearly 30 states across the country have legalized the drug in one form or another, Virginia's lawmakers have been slow to decriminalize the drug. If you've been arrested for a marijuana-related crime, then a Christianburg, Virginia drug possession lawyer can advise you of your rights in your case.

Source: CBS 6, "The numbers behind racial disparities in marijuana arrests across Va.," accessed Dec. 11, 2017

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