Montana Has The Highest Black Marijuana Arrest Rates
Montana voters will have the opportunity to legalize adult marijuana on November 3, and a new industry will emerge if voters approve reform in the upcoming elections. More importantly, we are beginning to reverse some of the lasting harms of Prohibition, including terrible racial injustice.
Initiative 118 would set the legal age for marijuana use at 21, while Initiative 190 would regulate cannabis in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco, except for medical marijuana. Both ballots call for a minimum age of 18 for recreational use and a maximum of 21 years for adult use, and both would impose a $1,000 fine for each ounce of marijuana that goes on sale, as well as a two-year prison sentence.
An October 28 poll found I-190 likely to pass, with 44 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed, according to the Associated Press / CBS News poll.
According to an April 2020 ACLU report analyzing marijuana arrests in all 50 states, Montana has more blacks arrested for marijuana per capita than any other U.S. state. Montana holds a notorious record, with nearly half a million people living there, only about 1 percent of whom are black. In Montana, blacks were found to be more than twice as likely as whites to be arrested with marijuana, a difference that has nearly tripled in the last decade.
While white students roam in dormitories, cars, and outdoors, black students are not more likely to get caught and face higher penalties, according to the report.
Native Americans are disproportionately arrested for marijuana compared to whites, a trend that worsened between 2014 and 2018, according to the Criminal Division. Although the ACLU did not analyze the arrests of Native Americans, the group has been a target of marijuana laws in Montana for years. In 2014, Indians accounted for 14 percent of all arrests, while Indians were the second-largest group of marijuana offenders in the state, behind whites. The indigenous population is also overrepresented - in state prisons, and this trend worsened from 2014 to 2018, with indigenous incarceration rates in Montana rising by 25% over the same period.
A 2016 spending report found that one in five arrests was made for repeated marijuana offenses and technical violations related to Native American parole and probation requirements. Marijuana arrests accounted for more than half of all arrests in Montana in 2016, according to the Montana Department of Justice. Montana recorded nearly 1,500 marijuana arrests in 2017, up from about 500 in 2015 and about 800 in 2014, the state's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Division said.
We saw it first - the damage marijuana prohibition has done to young people both in Montana and across the country in terms of violent crime and drug abuse.
A friend of mine told the court that he was charged at the age of 16 with possession of an old bag that had less than 0.1 grams. He eventually smoked Spice as a substitute for drug tests and was not given any help for his cannabis-related issues. After a parole release, after a few months in prison and a year in prison, I was released again.
Yoder said his friend had seizures that may have been caused by Spice, a form of synthetic marijuana. Legalization could allow young people to use safer, tested forms of marijuana, he said. Such potentially risky alternatives are popular with people of all ages, while marijuana remains illegal, he said.
The current penalties for marijuana in Montana are particularly harsh: anything that is classified as a felony can be punished with up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine. There is no maximum penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, but repeated misdemeanors can be punishable by three years in prison.
Other penalties for marijuana were tightened to the point of absurdity, such as a $1,000 fine for possession of less than an ounce and up to five years in prison.
The sale or dispensing of marijuana in any quantity is a criminal offense and there is no intention to dispense it. Growing less than a pound of marijuana per plant was a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Initiative 190 seems to address at least some of these criminal injustices, but the flip side of I-190 "s provision is that downtime does not occur automatically.
The proposal provides that, if adopted, courts would have the power to sentence people currently serving sentences that are no longer considered criminal after legalization. People who have served their sentences could also be reclassified and deported.
The flip side of I-190 "s provision is that downtime is not automatic, and the extraction rule is intended to reverse the previous law's impact on marijuana production and distribution in the state.
Jessica Brito stressed that Montana's marijuana ban does not exist in a vacuum and the burden is borne by those determined to seek help, not the state government. As in other states that have legalized deportation, this burden has created serious practical obstacles to deportation, including people who do not know they are qualified.
Rather, blacks and brown people are disproportionately arrested and charged with minor offenses by police, courts, and other agencies. Marijuana prohibition is certainly part of the problem, but it is not the root cause of the systemic inequality that leads to racial discrimination and injustice, "she said. Legalizing marijuana may help limit the number of blacks who are disproportionately arrested for minor offenses, but it does not ultimately solve the root causes of problems that lead to injustice. Still, according to the National Organization for Marijuana Rights Reform (NORML), this would be an important and immediate step.