Minneapolis police say they’ll no longer arrest people for selling small amounts of marijuana.
Mayor Jacob Frey directed the department to discontinue undercover sting operations targeting low-level marijuana sales.
Chief Medaria Arradondo said enforcement, particularly in downtown Minneapolis, has disproportionately impacted African-American men.
The change follows a review of arrests officers made from January through May as part of a downtown crime detail.
The Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office said of the 47 people arrested for marijuana sales only, 46 were black.
“This is going to take a collaborative effort to address some of these systemic issues that unfortunately are still present in our city,” Arradondo said at a press conference Thursday.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman responded in a statement after the chief’s press conference that he’s already dismissed, diverted, or requested stays of adjudication in a quarter of the cases and is in the process of dismissing the others.
Freeman also said when he spoke with Arradondo about the issue on Tuesday, he told him that his office “would not be charging these types of cases. And, we began an immediate review of the remaining cases brought to our attention.”
According to a 2014 ACLU study, African-Americans in Minneapolis were more than 11 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana, even though studies show similar usage rates.
Minneapolis police spokesperson John Elder said the department “will continue our operations focusing on crime deterrence and livability improvements. We will still arrest for marijuana violations when appropriate.”
“The goal here is to keep our city safe,” Arradondo said during the news conference. “But the goal is we also want to contribute to the hope that so many in our community, and especially our African-American males, are not experiencing at this time.”