Nicole Leo and Shaye Murray’s Podcast Discussion
Injustices and biases in the Criminal Justice System regarding Marijuana.
08 April, 2020
“Yo is this Racist?”
Nicole: Hello, my name is Nicole.
Shaye: Hello my name is Shaye.Today we’re going to dive into a topic concerning
marijuana and how its over-policing before legalization has claimed the lives of many in the
black community through the justice system.
Nicole: That’s right. Let’s take a look at the numbers. Between 2001 and 2010 there were
over 8 billion arrested for marijuana related charges.To put that in perspective that is one
bust every 37 seconds. But since 2010, the tides have turned with the legalization of
marijuana in many states.So why are there still people jailed for something that is now
legal? And what is more concerning is the racial disparity of those incarcerated.
Shaye: There’s a long history of black men being incarcerated for selling marijuana. It was
a big deal even for small amounts they were caught with. Often times, black men in those
low income communities sold this product to
provide for their families because society would
not give them a chance to succeed in the workforce due to racism and discrimination.
Nicole: Based on studies it shows that marijuana use is about equal between races, specifically between black people and white people. What is alarming is the fact that black people are almost four times as likely to be arrested for possession compared to white people and almost fives times as likely to be charged with a felony. And we are all aware how hard it is for anybody to circulate back into normal society after being charged with a
Shaye: True. Just to share some more statistics put out by the ACLU out of 2,000
marijuana offenders who were federally sentenced, meaning charged with a felony, in 2018,
84% were black. Only 11% were white even though white people reflect 60% of the United
States population and as Nicole just said are just as likely to be using and/or possessing
marijuana. Meanwhile, when arrested, charged and sentenced, black people faced a lot
more time. Not only that but they didn’t have the funds to bail themselves out while waiting
for a trial or in some cases the prosecutors would reject cash bail altogether.
Nicole: Let’s go a little deeper into sentencing received for such charges.The average
sentence for a marijuana charge is 29 months. Let’s put that in perspective.The Stanford
swimmer Brock Turner was sentenced a lousy 6 months for sexually assaulting an
unconscious woman.So while this WHITE MAN actually HARMED another human being he
was sentenced a significantly less amount of time than black man who was caught with
weed in his possession.
Shaye: It’s pretty clear that white counters parts with same marijuana offenses would be
granted lesser harsh consequences often community service or a light sentence.
Nicole: Funny story. Not that I’m proud but I was caught by law enforcement with a little bit
of marijuana one time. I was about 18 or 19 years old and I’m a white woman. The officer asked if it was
mine, I replied “yes” because… it was the truth. I was given a ticket and went home. That’s right, almost like
a traffic ticket. I went to court, did a little class, and *poof* it’s off my record.So why did I get
so lucky? If that isn’t white privilege, I’m not sure what is.
Shaye: Who knew you could just get a ticket? I didn’t know that was a thing. But now that
marijuana is becoming legal, people are starting businesses. Most are white males and the
stigma around it has now decreased because of such. It’s even being considered an
“essential” business during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nicole: A good example is Kevin Murphy, a white man, who has made a very lucrative
profit off of marijuana since it’s legalization. USA Today reported that “The top tier of the
legal pot industry is run almost exclusively by white men, and retailers, dispensaries and
pharmacies nationwide are expected to take in nearly $45 billion in revenue by 2024.” So
while hundreds of people of color live behind bars, with some even facing a life sentence
due to the distribution of weed, they get to watch the rich get richer. The crimes that had
once imprisoned them a decade ago, could have potentially put them on the cover of
Shaye: And yet, black and brown people are still being criminalized. There has been work
toward decriminalization to decrease the systematic injustices but it hasn’t covered all fronts
yet. And I’m worried for the black and brown community because they are treated
differently; They are more neglected in the judicial system when it comes to punishment.
Nicole: This occurrence is America is not only racist, but highlights a major flaw within our
Shaye: There is an injustice issue however, over the recent years ideas have changed.
There has been some support and consistent effort to assist incarcerated individuals with
the opportunity to be expunged from a crime that was once illegal, and caused a lot of pain
and controversy. These efforts are crucial to give people another chance for a minor
situation or circumstance. So, what do you think about this situation? Yo, is this racist?