White women rarely arrested for pot
But a look at the data for Philadelphia in August 2008 reveals that just 9 white women were arrested for marijuana possession of less than 30 grams. In sharp contrast, 362 black men were arrested that month alone for the very same offense.
The data comes form the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report and has been confirmed by Philadelphia Police representatives.
Nationally, statistics show that there is a stronger preference among men for marijuana (or at least to admit use on surveys). The same data shows that women of most ethnicities are well represented within America’s millions of marijuana consumers.
Several studies indicate that black and white women choose cannabis at near equal rates.
Still, black women were three times more likely to be arrested for pot in Philadelphia.
The city saw just 90 white women arrested in all of 2008 for minor marijuana possession while 345 black women were arrested for the same offense.
Overall in 2008 for Philadelphia: 4716 adults were arrested for simple pot possession: 3908 were black men.
Unfortunately Philadelphia is in no way unique. In New York City the data showcasing a racial and gender disparity in marijuana arrests is shocking: NYC saw over ten thousand arrests during just a single year for Marijuana in Public View (MPV), a criminal misdemeanor. Ninety percent of those arrests were black men. Read more
Again, the least arrested category in NYC for pot was white women.
The charge in Philly for cannabis possession less than 30 grams is rather harsh: A Class-A criminal misdemeanor. Unlike every other county in Pennsylvania it requires immediate custodial arrest in the city.
PhillyNORML met with Philadelphia city officials last May to discuss the local marijuana arrest statistics. A report quantifying those arrests in the city criminal justice system is still in progress.
Clearly though, the cumulative effect of marijuana prohibition enforcement in Philadelphia and many urban environments across America is a stark racial and gender disparity. Members of cannabis reform effort point to such data as the civil rights and social justice core of the national legalization movement.
As more women are being showcased in the media, National NORML in Washington DC created a Women’s Alliance this year to focus on this aspect of reform. Locally at PhillyNORML and NORML-NJ women are in leadership roles. More info: NORML Women’s Alliance
Women have been some of the strongest voices in the medical marijuana movement: WAMM’s Valerie Corral, OregonNORML’s Madeline Martinez and US Supreme Court litigant Angel Raich, have had a profound impact on the national debate.
Seventy years ago American women decried the effect alcohol prohibition was having on their fathers, brothers and sons. The voice of women made the final push to end the failed policy of alcohol prohibition in 1933.
Today, marijuana advocates are working to bring greater attention to the pot arrest disparity. Statistics in Philadelphia and New York City compel greater scrutiny of prohibition enforcement.
The infrequent arrest of white women underlines that marijuana legalization is a social policy issue with complex and far-reaching implications.
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