This report from the Washington City Paper could have been written about any large city in the country.
But even with a high arrest rate, some people in D.C. can probably safely get high without worrying that the cops are coming. Those people are white people. In 2007, 91 percent of those arrested for marijuana were black. In a city whose population demographics are steadily evening out, that’s odd. In fact, adjusting for population, African Americans are eight times as likely to be arrested for weed as white smokers are.
This is true nationwide, and not just with marijuana but with other illegal drugs as well. Black people use drugs in about the same proportion as their percentage of the population yet they are a staggeringly high percentage of the arrests made for possession and use. This graphic says it all:
Still, D.C. isn’t exactly Amsterdam: More per capita marijuana arrests are made in the District than in any other jurisdiction in the country, according to a recent analysis of MPD and FBI data by Shenandoah University criminal justice professor Jon Gettman, the former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Pot arrests have been rising steadily every year since at least 2003, mirroring a national trend that began in the 1990s. And they didn’t really work. “We doubled marijuana arrests and it had no effect on the number of users,” Gettman says.
And that’s just pot. Such laws are even less effective in preventing use of drugs that are truly addictive.