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Blacks more likely to be busted for pot here

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Blacks are dramatically more likely than whites to be arrested or ticketed for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Evanston.

Figures from the Evanston Police Department to be presented at tonight's Human Services Committee meeting indicate that of the 77 people who were arrested or ticketed for cannabis violations during the second quarter of this year 61 percent were black, 25 percent were white and 18 percent were Hispanic.

Given the population demographics of the city, that means that blacks were more than three times as likely to be involved in a marijuana offense than their share of the population would indicate, while whites were nearly three times less likely to involved in such an incident, while Hispanics were about twice as likely to be caught.

The data provided doesn't indicate how many of those arrested were Evanston residents.

Numerous studies have indicated a wide racial disparity across the country in the arrest rates for marijuana possession, while there's little evidence that blacks are more likely to use pot than whites.

Activist groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have suggested that billions of dollars are being wasted on racially biased arrests.

A few years ago Evanston revised its cannabis ordinance to shift toward issuing citations handled in the city's administrative adjudication process for most instances of possession of small amounts of marijuana — in an effort to reduce the likelihood that pot smokers would end up with criminal records.

But police retain the discretion to instead file state criminal charges — often when other violations are also associated with the arrest.

Just 16 of the second quarter pot possession cases ended up in Circuit Court — but in three quarters of those that did, the defendants were black.

The typical person arrested or ticketed for pot possession is young — with a median age of 22 years. The oldest person nabbed during the second quarter was 55. Eighty-three percent of those arrested were males.

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