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Hanover County Finds Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests

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In Hanover County, roughly 246 white residents are arrested annually for marijuana possession. Roughly 171 of the county’s 9,600 African American residents are arrested annually for marijuana possession. For every 100,000 white residents, roughly 280 are arrested for marijuana while 1,779 of every 100,000 African Americans are arrested for similar charges.

By statistics alone, it shows that African Americans are six times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Hanover County, according to Suffolk News Herald. Across the State of Virginia, including in Suffolk, it seems to be a trend as African Americans, on average, are 3-times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

Records from over 160,000 marijuana-related arrests from 2010 through 2016 were examined to determine these statistics. Since 2010, an increase in arrests of African Americans for marijuana-related charges was noted. In 2010, it was 2.9-times more likely for an African American to be arrested for marijuana and rose to 3.2-times more likely in 2016.

Studies have shown that whites and African Americans use marijuana rather equally.

Drug Policy Alliance said in a report that, “Black Virginians have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana law enforcement, despite constituting only 20-percent of the state’s population and using marijuana at a similar rate as white Virginians.”

Jon Gettman, who wrote the report said, “It’s not necessarily that the minority group of blacks are targeted for increased arrests but that the areas where they live have a lot more police patrols and a lot more police activity. I think it may have a lot to do with where police patrols are more frequent and where policing is more aggressive.”

Robert Barnette of the Hanover County NAACP said, “The last time we met, we had a complaint that African Americans are being stopped on (Route) 360 more so than whites, and they do acknowledge that more African Americans are stopped based on profiles that they’re looking for.”

Gettman said, ““It’s sort of now an accepted fact that there’s a tremendous disparity in arrests between whites and blacks. In some respects, it doesn’t matter why there’s a racial disparity. The numbers show us that there is one, and consequently it’s clear that we’re not able to enforce these laws evenly, equally, fairly — and that’s a problem, and people are upset about it.”