Pennsylvania: Police arrested 20,200 adults for possession of marijuana in the course of the pandemic
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – New data from the Pennsylvania State Police shows that 55 Pennsylvanians were arrested for marijuana possession every day in 2020. The data was made available to NORML on request.
State and local police made 20,200 marijuana-related arrests in the Commonwealth in 2020. The total number of arrests for all other substances combined was 17,425.
Chris Goldstein, the regional NORML organizer who collected the data, said: “Cannabis users were already affected during the Covid19 pandemic. This shows how aggressively the ban is being enforced in our communities, despite the unprecedented public health risks. Now is the time to stop the marijuana arrest. “
Women and adolescents were arrested more often for possession of cannabis than for any other substance.
Philadelphia became the first major Pennsylvania city to decriminalize marijuana possession crime, as it did in 2014. Since then, more than a dozen cities – including Harrisburg – in the state have followed ordinances to downgrade their sentences.
While the passage of these ordinances has somewhat suppressed the rising tide of enforcement, not all have been fully implemented. For example, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin refused to allow Allentown Police to stop the arrest of marijuana even after an ordinance was passed.
The data on marijuana arrests continue to show remarkable racial inequality, even when compared to other substance arrests. Pennsylvania has about 12.7 million residents with 10.3 million whites and about 1.4 million blacks.
Blacks make up 12% of the population but 32% of marijuana arrests.
Racial differences are often given in terms of per capita figures. Here is the formula applied to this current data:
Total marijuana arrests, knows: 13,498 divided by 10.3 million is .00131. For example, 131 white residents were arrested for marijuana per 100,000 people in Pa.
Total marijuana arrests, Black: 6,459 divided by 1.4 million is .00461. For example, 461 black residents were arrested for marijuana per 100,000 people in Pa.
The conclusion is that black Pennsylvania residents are about 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites as measured by the population.
“Marijuana should not be used as a law enforcement excuse to interact with otherwise law-abiding members of the public, especially during a global pandemic,” said Carly Wolf, NORML State Policy Manager. “The ongoing marijuana ban in Pennsylvania encroaches on civil liberties and disproportionately affects color communities. It is time for lawmakers to take action so that marijuana users are no longer treated as second-class citizens. “
Jeff Riedy, Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML, said, “These numbers remind us of the ongoing effects of domestic cannabis criminalization, while also reflecting the racial disparities between arrests across the country. The only real solution is the immediate decriminalization and eventual legalization of cannabis in Pennsylvania. We know too many lives are ruined for a simple possession charge, and it must end now! We are talking about a plant. “
Goldstein, who helped create the 2014 Philadelphia Decriminalization Ordinance, added, “Justice for marijuana will not begin until the arrests actually stop.”
A screenshot of the data is included below. If you live in Pennsylvania Now send a message to your lawmaker to support decriminalization.