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Racial Disparity and Marijuana Arrests in Iowa

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- A recent report from the American Civil Liberties union shows Iowa is dead last in the country when it comes to racial disparity and marijuana arrests

It shows African Americans are 8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite the fact the report says marijuana use is about equal between the two races

“Not surprised at all, no.”

It was the reaction from Dedric Doolin with the area substance abuse council, who says the numbers aren't shocking.

“Iowa's the number one state as far as disproportionately putting African Americans in prison, so why wouldn't it be different for arrests for Marijuana?” Doolin questioned.

Doolin says folks not knowing their rights is part of the reason for the gap.

“Sometimes their interaction with police is not positive because they don't know how to interact,” Doolin said.

He also lays some blame on law enforcement.

“They have a tendency to think, ‘Ok I have this African American male he's probably got marijuana, he's probably got drugs, let me search him,” Doolin said. 

Cedar Rapids Police say when it comes to drugs, it's not a black thing or a white thing, they are just looking for people breaking the law.

“Whether we agree with the law or don’t agree with the law we are enforcers of the law,” Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said.

She says overall drug arrests in Cedar Rapids don't show the same gap as the report, but they are teaming up with community leaders to take a second look.

“We're gonna work together to look at it to see what can we do, is this truly a problem?” Hamblin said.

Doolin says it will take education all around to turn around the numbers.

“Law enforcement, the judges, the county attorneys, and the community at large need to be educated,” Doolin said.

The report shows that nationally, African Americans are almost four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession that whites.
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