An investigative report published recently by The Charlotte Observer has found that blacks are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.
The study focuses exclusively on statistics in the city of Charlotte, where the possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor.
In North Carolina, when cops find a person with small amounts of marijuana, they can either give them a citation or arrest them.
And in Charlotte, authorities are not given any official guidance regarding when to issue a citation and when to make an arrest.
This, many have argued, leaves the room open for an uneven application of the law.
Instead, officers are beginning to issue more citations, and in some cases, even verbal warnings.
But when cops do choose to make an arrest, most of the time it’s when they’re dealing with a black person.
According to the article, since 2014, Charlotte police have made a total of 3,700 arrests or citations for possession of less than a half ounce of marijuana.
Of the 3,700 people to receive some sort of punishment, 74% were black while 18% were white.
During that same time period, police officers elected to arrest 1,961 people, 91% of whom were black and 9% of whom were white.
Earlier this week, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts expressed concern over the numbers revealed by the investigation.
“I am deeply troubled about the racial disparities in arrests,” she told reporters. “I look forward to discussing with our police chief how we ensure that everyone is being treated equally under the law.”
For his part, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said that while he doesn’t think racism is responsible for the disparities, he thinks there is still reason “to be concerned with disproportionality.”
In the wake of the study, many have pointed out that the trends identified in Charlotte are also present at the national level.
In particular, many have pointed out that the U.S.’s prison population includes a disproportionately large number of people of color, many of whom are in on drug charges.
“Despite roughly equal rates of drug use and sales, African-American men are arrested at 13 times the rate of white men on drug charges in the U.S.,” according to AlterNet.
“African-Americans and Latinos together make up 29 percent of the total U.S. population, but more than 75 percent of drug law violators in state and federal prisons.”