Nashville to Monitor Marijuana Arrests to Avoid Racial Bias

Nashville to Monitor Marijuana Arrests to Avoid Racial Bias

Flickr / maximillian_schaffhausen / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the city of Nashville, officials have begun gathering information on marijuana citations and arrests in an effort to help combat potential racial discrimination.

On Sept. 20, 2016, the city passed an ordinance which would allow law enforcement to issue fines for marijuana possession, giving rise to fears that unconscious biases may lead to the new option being used disproportionately.

Although white and black Americans use marijuana at similar rates, studies have shown that black Americans are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. By giving law enforcement officials the discretion to issue fines, as opposed to requiring fines, many fear that police will disproportionately fine whites while continuing to arrest African Americans.

“We need to really keep a tab on that because there could be inequities,” Councilman Ed Kindall told The Tennessean. “We’ve seen it elsewhere. And just generally speaking, there has been a disproportionate number of African-Americans arrested on drug charges already.”

In order to create a baseline for comparison, efforts are already underway on behalf of law enforcement to collect information and statistics on marijuana arrests and citations. Metro police have also begun undergoing bias and deescalation training.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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