Are Marijuana Arrests Racist?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 7 2012 @ 6:37pm

Heather MacDonald insists they are not:

The reason that marijuana arrests are higher in high-crime neighborhoods is that their law-abiding residents ask for heavier police presence and for enforcement of all the laws—including drug laws.

The anti-cop advocates love to point out that the 50,000 marijuana-possession arrests in 2011 were more than all such arrests in the 19 years leading up to 1996, when marijuana arrests began rising under the mayoral administration of Rudolph Giuliani. Recall what those 19 years were like: “Twenty years ago you couldn’t walk through here,” a 58-year-old former junkie told me at an East Harlem anti-stop rally several weeks ago. “There’s no crime here anymore.” From 1977 to 1996, those allegedly halcyon days without marijuana enforcement, 12.4 million felonies were committed in the city; from 1997 to 2006, there were only 2.6 million. And it was minority neighborhoods in those pre-Giuliani decades that were most lethally overrun by both crime and the drug trade. Police enforce low-level drug offenses in high-crime areas because they are trying to establish norms of lawful conduct. Ideally, parents would be the ones enforcing those norms, but when they fail to, as the predation in minority neighborhoods shows has happened, the police will step in in their stead.