There have been many repeated calls for the legalization of marijuana. Several states have allowed medicinal use of the drug, while Washington and Colorado recently legalized recreational use. Despite the more widespread acceptance of marijuana usage, the federal government still considers it a controlled substance, meaning users could be facing potential penalties if caught with the drug.
While California has taken some steps toward legalization of the drug, the state still experiences a significant number of marijuana-related drug crimes each year. In Los Angeles, voters recently decided to restrict the medical marijuana dispensaries that can exist within the city limits. This initiative was necessary after the City Council tried to ban the medicinal shops last year.
Voters in Los Angeles also recently elected a new mayor, Eric Garcetti. The mayor-elect has stated that he is not opposed to legalization efforts, but feels that decision must come from a statewide initiative.
Garcetti believes that marijuana crimes are taking too much attention away from law enforcement, which instead could be focusing on reducing more violent crimes happening within the city. In large cities, such as Los Angeles, there have been concerns that police arrest a disproportionate number of minorities for these types of crimes, meaning that law enforcement may be engaging in racial profiling.
A recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) examined data regarding those arrested for marijuana offenses. The study found that African Americans were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana crimes than whites, even though both races used the drug about the same.
According to the ACLU study, from 2001-2010 in California, African Americans made up only about 7 percent of the state’s population, yet accounted for over 16 percent of marijuana arrests that occurred. The study did not examine numbers for Latinos, which may also demonstrate some irregularities in arrest rates.
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, speak to a criminal defense attorney experienced at handling drug cases. An attorney can help you understand the potential penalties you may be facing, and will review your case to learn of any defenses that may be available.
Once you have considered the options for your case, you can make a decision that is in your best interests. Those investigating these crimes may bring you in for questioning before you have been charged with anything, and it is important you realize the seriousness of these investigations. Do not speak to the police without having an attorney present.