Report: Latinos unfairly targeted for pot, too

Hot on the heels of their report last week that African Americans are disproportionately arrested in simple marijuana possession cases, supporters of Proposition 19 – the marijuana legalization measure on next week’s ballot – rolled out a report today saying the same is true for Latinos.

The new report, prepared by the Drug Policy Alliance and the William C. Velasquez Institute, indicates that although U.S. government surveys consistently find that young Latinos use marijuana at lower rates than young whites, major California cities arrested and prosecuted Latinos for marijuana possession at double to nearly triple the rate of whites from 2006 to 2008.

In the City of Los Angeles, for example, police arrested Latinos for marijuana possession at twice the rate of whites, the report says In San Jose, Latinos are 31 percent of the population but 54 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession; police in San Jose arrested Latinos at 2.2 times the rate of whites. In Fremont – the only East Bay city included in the report – police arrested Latinos at 1.3 times the rate of whites; Latinos account for 14.6 percent of Fremont’s population but 26.7 percent of its marijuana arrests.

The report also says that in the twenty years from 1990 to 2009, the marijuana possession arrest rate of Latino teenagers in California more than tripled.

Prop. 19’s supporters will hold a news conference tomorrow morning at the Velasquez Institute’s Los Angeles headquarters to formally release the report and announce the measure’s endorsement by several police officers from the National Latino Officers Association.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    There is only one answer to this problem: Jail more Gringos! (Hay una respuesta por esta problema: Carcel por los gringos!)

  • MJ

    Finally it’s reported we are just as unfairly treated. As a Latina I already knew this but to me its never talked about so I’m glad that someone finally did.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    MJ: Being Latina has nothing to do with pot use. Blacks and Latinas get arrested more often because they encounter police more often. Few if any middle-class Hispanics are in jail. It’s poor or dumb young men who wind up in trouble with the law. A few generations ago it was the poor dumb White guys who made up the majority of the jail population in nearly all states.

  • John W

    Comment on RR #3

    Don’t know if I completely buy RR’s explanation, but I do believe that the story is not as simple as the raw statistics suggest. I’d be interested in hearing the law enforcement community’s perspective on this. It should be noted that some of those “encounter police more often” situations are, in the case of African-Americans, DWB encounters. If there were such a thing as DWW (driving while white), that might push up the white MJ arrest stats.

    Anyway, apparently no MJ arrests at the World Series, regardless of ethnicity, despite the whiff of weed in the air. Must be why that Rangers pitcher couldn’t find the strike zone last night.