Minneapolis police abruptly halted the practice of targeting small-scale marijuana sellers downtown after revelations that nearly everyone arrested was black. Most of the cases involved one or two grams of marijuana sold for $10 or $20.
Minneapolis police abruptly halted the practice of targeting small-scale marijuana sellers downtown after revelations that nearly everyone arrested was black, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. In a series of rushed announcements Thursday, authorities said police would no longer conduct sting operations targeting low-level marijuana sales. Charges against 47 people arrested in the first five months of 2018 will be dismissed. The extraordinary turnaround occurred after Hennepin County’s chief public defender complained to Mayor Jacob Frey about what looked like blatant racial profiling. Frey told Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to stop the stings.
“I believe strongly that marijuana should be a lowest-level enforcement priority and that it should be fully legalized at the state level,” Frey said. “The fact that racial disparities are so common nationwide in the enforcement of marijuana laws is one of the reasons I support full legalization.” Drug arrests by Minneapolis police fell nearly two thirds from 2007 to 2016. The public defender’s office determined that 46 of the people arrested this year were black. All were charged as felonies. Some were put in diversion programs, some were convicted and at least one man went to prison. “Almost all of those cases involve a sale of [one or two] grams of marijuana for a total of $10-$20,” said assistant public defender Jess Braverman. Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty called Frey last week about the racial disparities. “Approaching black men and women who are low income and homeless and then having the county attorney charge them with felony drug sales makes me very angry and disappointed,” Moriarty said. A police spokesman said that while the undercover stings were being stopped, police would still make arrests for marijuana sales.