Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is celebrated by all races, colors, and creeds. It is a celebration of the diverse population and cultures that make up the United States of America. It is also a celebration of how far we have come since the start of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr., and his allies that fought along side him, experienced unspeakable hardships and horrors to try to make equality a reality in the world they lived in.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I often reflect on what Mr. King would have thought about the current state of marijuana prohibition in America. Would MLK be a part of the Marijuana Majority? Marijuana prohibition disproportionately targets African American citizens to such an extent, that I think Martin Luther King Jr. would be leading marches against it if he were still alive. Below is an article that the legendary Radical Russ Belville wrote about the disparity involved with African American arrests for marijuana possession:
While much has been made of New York City’s racially-disproportionate arrests of African-Americans for marijuana, the fact is that most large American cities suffer the same racist effect of our marijuana prohibition policies.
The Russ Belville Show analyzed census data and recent media reports on the arrests of African-Americans for marijuana possession and found that in at least eleven of the top 25 US cities by population, the percentage of marijuana arrests of blacks are 38% to over eight times greater than the percentage of black population in those cities. US surveys show that under age 25, whites are more likely to smoke marijuana, while over age 25, blacks are more likely to; however, three out of four marijuana arrests are for people under age 30 and over a third of those adults who use marijuana are aged 18-25.
The greatest racial disparity to be found among the Top 25 cities was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where just 7% of the population is black, but black people make up about 60% of the arrests for marijuana. According to research by Jon Gettman, Ph.D., “[b]lacks account for 12% of the population, 14% of annual marijuana users, and 31% of marijuana possession arrests” nationwide. Research also shows that same sort of gross racial disproportionality in the top 25 cities in California.