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ACLU study shows Blacks more likely to be arrested for pot possession in Kalamazoo, other cities

The Associated Press


A study by the American Civil Liberties Union shows wide racial disparities in arrests related to marijuana possession. 

The study finds that African-Americans are more 8.5 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana in Kalamazoo County. That was one of the largest disparities in the state. The study looked at statistics from 2001 to 2010. 

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley told Mlive Kalamazoo that he wants to take a closer look at the study's methodology. He questions statistics showing Kalamazoo with the nation's highest increase in racial disparity for marijuana arrests. But Hadley says the study's conclusion is worthy of further discussion and examination. 

The lead author of the study Ezekiel Edwards told WMUK's Gordon Evans that the study looked at arrest statistics from the FBI and census data. He says if there is a reporting issue it's likely at the local level. 

Edwards, who is also the is also Director of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, says the report raises a lot of concerns about the number of arrests for marijuana and the racial disparities in many counties in Michigan and other states. Edwards says it also raises questions about police practices and how much money is spent on enforcing marijuana laws. 

Voters in Kalamazoo have approved making possession of marijuana the lowest priority of law enforcement and the city has made possession a misdemeanor, enforceable by an appearance ticket. A similar proposal has passed in Grand Rapids. Edwards says that should help limit the number of arrests. But he says the number of arrests may go down, but there can still be racial disparities.

The ACLU's supports legalizing marijuana. Washington and Colorado voters both approved initiatives to legalize marijuana last year. 

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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