Report shows disparity in marijuana convictions across state

AUSTIN, Minn. – A recent study from Minnesota 2020; a nonpartisan group that focuses on issues like education, health care, transportation and more, shows disparities in the number of marijuana-related convictions.

Across the state, African Americans are more likely to be convicted than whites.

Although the numbers in our area show less disparity than the statewide average, it is still higher here than across the country. That is why Minnesota 2020 is calling for a change to the state laws.

While the numbers may show a difference in convictions, it is the pocketbooks that are really hurting from it.

Minnesota 2020 leaders say a conviction can cost someone  up to $76,000 over a ten-year span.

“Since many black Minnesotans already face disparities with respect to employment, income, education, housing and health, these costs are often amplified,” said Nicole Simms, a Minnesota 2020 Fellow and the author of the report.

So Simms and others with Minnesota 2020 are looking for change when it comes to the state’s marijuana laws.

“We must work to limit their impacts by supporting legislative reforms that minimize the collateral costs associated with an arrest, calling for greater transparency in policing and better training to eliminate police bias,” Simms said.

They also say making marijuana legal would help as well.

“The trade’s going on right now, it’s just that we drive it underground, and we think it would be much better to regulate it, tax it, and control it,” said Randy Quast, Executive Director of MN NORML.

He said that the first people to get it should be people with medical issues, but the best way to do that is with full legalization.

“We’re dealing with a substance that’s less dangerous than beer, less risky than children’s cough syrup and about as addictive as caffeine,” Quast said.

He also sited the economic benefits that could come along with it.

“The cost related to marijuana-related offenses is about $150 million a year to our criminal justice system. In Colorado, they’re projecting about $100 million of taxes this next year,” Quast said.

Nathan Ness, who is also with MN NORML, said that they would like to see marijuana taxed and regulated much like alcohol. That is why they support the Senate version of the bill, although he said it still does not go far enough.

Governor Mark Dayton and law enforcement around the state support the House version of the bill. That would forbid patients from receiving or possessing and of the plant itself. There would also be less medical conditions eligible for medical marijuana.

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