NAACP calls study of racially lopsided marijuana arrests 'disturbing'

NAACP calls study of racially lopsided marijuana arrests 'disturbing'

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A national study done by the ACLU on racially lopsided marijuana arrests has lit a fire under the Charleston chapter of the NAACP. So much so, NAACP president Dot Scott is calling the findings 'disturbing.'

"We have a war on people," said Scott during a press conference Monday. "Disproportionately the African American community suffers."

Scott is fired up over a study released by the ACLU that focuses on 2010 data of marijuana arrests across the nation.

The study breaks down its findings by state and then again by county. It reveals blacks were arrested 3.2 times more than whites for pot charges in Charleston County during that time.

"It's a big problem," said Scott. "It's not just 'OK, we found this person smoking weed,' there are issues bigger than that."

Scott says after reading over the report she came to the conclusion it's information shows the epitome of racial profiling in South Carolina and beyond.

"The numbers that this study covered, it got worse before it got better so surely I expect those numbers to get higher," she said. "You could not be in North Charleston and go two blocks without seven blue lights going at the same time."

Scott and her group of supporters used Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon as an example multiple times during their press conference.

The NAACP president says Cannon reportedly called the ACLU report 'bias research.'

She says his response is disturbing.

"It's unfortunate our Sheriff would dismiss scholarly research as bias without first providing evidence to the contrary," said Scott.

In a search for answers, Live 5 News found evidence that seems to support Scott's claim.

In a small sample size, arrests records in Charleston County over the last five days shows 13 people were arrested for carrying marijuana.

Of those 13 arrests, 12 suspects were black and only one was white. To go deeper, five of the 13 people arrested had other charges. That means the remaining eight people in our research, were arrested just on pot charges.

"It's a big problem," says Pastor Thomas Dixon, who agrees with Scott. "It's a problem dealing with law enforcement itself."

Dixon says although many other issues, like economic situations, lack of education and poor parenting skills, contribute to these arrests - he believes racial profiling still plays a large part.

"The concentration of law enforcement in the black community far outweighs that in the white community," said Dixon. "Although the numbers of drug usage are about the same."

A Charleston County spokesperson says Sheriff Al Cannon will research the numbers published by the ACLU overnight. After he gets a better understanding of the facts he will respond to the NAACP's allegations.

Scott and the NAACP invited the leadership of local law enforcement agencies, including Cannon, to attend a town hall meeting in ten days on June 27.

Scott is asking the departments to bring data on marijuana arrests by race to that meeting.

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