San Francisco Results of 10 Years Data Report of Racial Profiling in Marijuana Arrests

Rabin Nabizadeh
June 11, 2013

Just last week, the American Civil Liberties Union released the analyzed data from their study on racial profiling in marijuana busts in San Francisco.  The results may astound some of you; to others, the reveal wasn’t surprising at all.  Though they have officially denied these allegations, the actions of the San Francisco Police Department over the last decade or so have been called into question, at the very least.

The data comes from a national study done over the course of the years 2001-2010, not just one solely concerning San Francisco, which turns out to be the leading city when it comes to arresting African Americans over whites for marijuana charges.  Interestingly, the study also uncovered the fact that marijuana usage among different ethnicities is even and balanced – the same number of African Americans and whites, for example, use marijuana on a regular basis.  So, why are African Americans being arrested more often for these drug-related charges than whites are?

The arrest rate in San Francisco for whites as far as charges of marijuana possession in 2010 was 44 persons, while it was a whopping 192 (per 100,000 people) for African Americans.  This suggests that, although the San Francisco Police Department may claim that they do not participate in racial profiling, the numbers speak for themselves.  Police Department representatives pointed to the fact that the law itself has changed.

On January 1, 2011, CA Senate Bill 1449 went into effect, after having been signed into law some months before by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The law effectively de-criminalized the possession of 1 ounce of marijuana, making it an infraction instead of a misdemeanor.  Now, the exposure is no more than a $100 fine, with no criminal record and no need to even show up in court.  San Francisco Police argue that the arrests went down to 11 in 2011 due to this new law and that 5 of those arrested were African American, 5 white, and 1 Latino.  It’s still unclear whether this represents a true picture of the racially disparate practices of the police force in the city.

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