News from around Wisconsin at 5:28 a.m. CDT

9/15/2014 4:45 AM
By Associated Press

Report: Madison pot arrests higher for blacks

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Police in Madison arrest or cite blacks for marijuana offenses at about 12 times the rate they punish whites, according to data analyzed by the Wisconsin State Journal.

The State Journal examined 18 months of police drug arrests (http://bit.ly/1uNILjhhttp://bit.ly/1uNILjh ) for its report Sunday. The newspaper said the disparity comes despite national surveys that show blacks and whites use pot at about the same rate. The State Journal also noted that blacks in Madison make up more than half the people arrested or cited on marijuana charges, despite accounting for only about 7 percent of the city population.

Police Chief Mike Koval called the numbers evidence of racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and said he supports legalizing marijuana.

"The crusade on marijuana has been a palpable failure; an abject failure," he said. "So let's acknowledge the failure for what it is, and rededicate ourselves to ... a better way to deal with people who have addictions."

The State Journal looked at drug arrests or citations from 2013 and the first six months of 2014. Offenses ranged from possession of small amounts of marijuana or drug paraphernalia up to recommended felony offenses for distributing large amounts of cocaine or heroin. The data doesn't show disposition of the charges.

In all, 1,538 people were arrested or cited for drug offenses; 618 were black and 874 were white. Based on population figures, that amounted to blacks being arrested or cited at a rate of 25.3 per 1,000, while whites faced sanctions for pot at a rate of 2.1 per 1,000, the State Journal reported.

Anthony Cooper, who directs re-entry services for people leaving the prison system as part of the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership and Development, said he wasn't surprised by the finding.

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9/22/2014 | Last Updated: 4:17 AM