Race Bias in Minneapolis Marijuana Stings

Minneapolis law enforcement show racism during marijuana stings

MINNEAPOLIS — Law enforcement in Minneapolis will no longer conduct marijuana sting operations targeting small-time pot dealersaccording to the Star Tribune. The move comes after the mayor was told by Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty that all but one of the 47 people arrested in the marijuana stings were Black.  

Mayor Jacob Frey immediately instructed Chief Medaria Arradondo to stop the undercover stings last Thursday. Authorities said that anyone charged with a low-level marijuana crime since the beginning of 2018 would have their charges dropped, but so far, only 31 charges have been dropped by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. 

The mayor said in a press release that racism is a nationwide problem in law enforcement and is one of the reasons he supports ending marijuana prohibition. The ACLU reports that Black people are arrested at almost four times the rate of White people on average nationwide, and 11 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Caucasians in Minneapolis.  

"I believe strongly that marijuana should be a lowest-level enforcement priority and that it should be fully legalized at the state level," Frey added. 

In several cases, undercover officers targeted Black men who did not normally sell marijuana and asked them for help in finding a person to purchase the drug from. Undercover officers would then arrest both people once a sale was made and charge them with felonies.  

The only Caucasian person arrested in the marijuana sting approached the undercover officers to sell them weed during the sting operation. 

The announcement comes just weeks after The New York Times revealed the NYPD arrested Black people in Manhattan at 15 times the rate of Caucasians. Prosecutors in Manhattan and Brooklyn announced they would no longer prosecute petty pot crimes, as a result.  

The executive director of the ACLU in Minnesota John Gordon is pleased the Hennepin County Attorney's Office has taken steps to improve the system and hopes the sentiment is infectious.  

“We are hopeful that this attitude is going to then spread to other kinds of low-level arrests that contribute to disparities in our criminal justice system," said Gordon, adding he hopes the city of Minneapolis addresses systematic racism at all levels of government.  

Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson John Elder said despite the end of marijuana sting operations, the city will still be arresting people for marijuana possession when Black appropriate.