Minneapolis police will stop the use of sting operations to bust low-level cannabis dealers after it surfaced that 46 of the 47 people arrested in this manner so far in 2018 were Black, the StarTribune reports. Authorities announced the changes last Thursday, also revealing that all charges against the 47 “dealers” would be dropped.
The policy shift can be traced back to Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty, who complained to Mayor Jacob Frey about the blatant racial discrepancies at play. Mayor Frey, in turn, directed Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to halt the stings entirely.
“I believe strongly that marijuana should be a lowest-level enforcement priority and that it should be fully legalized at the state level. The fact that racial disparities are so common nationwide in the enforcement of marijuana laws is one of the reasons I support full legalization.” — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, in a statement on Thursday
Here’s how the stings worked: using plainclothed officers, police would pose as buyers and approach people downtown, then arrest anyone who was able and willing to sell them cannabis. According to a May 31 court document, nearly all of these cases involved a sale of just 1-2 grams of cannabis for a total of $10 to $20, and all cases were charged as felonies.
“Approaching black men and women who are low income and homeless and then having the county attorney charge them with felony drug sales makes me very angry and disappointed.” — Public Defender Mary Moriarty, in an interview Thursday
According to Moriarty, the one white person arrested in the sting operations had not been approached by undercover officers but had approached the officers himself and offered to sell them weed.
While the sting operations have ceased, a Minneapolis police spokesperson said the department will continue to make arrests for cannabis sales.