Citing Racial Disparities- Minneapolis Cops Stop Marijuana Stings

NOTE: Liberty & Justice went to Minneapolis (Hennepin County) where the marijuana stings, described in the article below, occurred, and spoke with residents. They gave Liberty & Justice their opinions on the marijuana stings, marijuana laws, and marijuana and race. Listen to the audio report, linked below, to get a deeper understanding of the marijuana stings through an in depth interview with Hennepin County Chief Public Defender, Mary Moriarty, and Hennepin County residents by clicking on the link below.

Interview with Chief Moriarty and Hennepin County Residents

                    “In Minnesota a person can possess 42.5 grams of marijuana and not be guilty of a crime. That’s a petty misdemeanor like a traffic ticket or parking ticket or something like that.” Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty said. “If you sell any amount of marijuana you could be charged under the felony fifth degree sale statute, but that’s completely within the discretion of the prosecutor.”

                    During the first five months of 2018 the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), conducted low-level ‘marijuana stings’ in downtown Minneapolis (Hennepin County), where undercover cops approached individuals asking for marijuana, according to reports. The marijuana stings stopped after claims of racial disparities were made known to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who directed the Minneapolis Police Department to stop the stings. The stings caused the arrests of 47 individuals charged with felony drug sale, according to Chief Moriarty. Out of the 47 people arrested for felony drug sale of marijuana, 46 of them were black, according to reports. The marijuana stings were made public on June seventh through a series of rushed announcements from officials: from the chief of the  Minneapolis Police Department, Medaria Arradondo.

                    “We will discontinue specific, low-level marijuana enforcement, and I agree with the mayor’s decision.” Chief Arradondo said.

                    Minneapolis Mayor Frey reached out to Chief Moriarty to get her thoughts about criminal justice reform very early on in his administration, according to Chief Moriarty. The first opportunity that Mayor Frey and Chief Moriarty were able to meet was near the time that Chief Moriarty’s team was gearing up to litigate the cases.  Chief Moriarty talked with Mayor Frey about the data that her team was pulling, concerning the cases, as well as about what was happening in the cases, according to Chief Moriarty. Chief Moriarty described Mayor Frey’s response.

                    “His immediate reaction was extreme disappointment, he was upset that this was happening, and he and the police chief put a stop to it.” Chief Moriarty said.

                    Charges against the individuals that were not convicted on felony drug sale before June 7th have been dropped, according to Chief Moriarty. However, charges have not been dropped for those individuals convicted of felony drug sale before the announcement on June seventh that the marijuana stings would stop. Those clients are waiting motions scheduled this month, according to Chief Moriarty.

                    “I believe strongly that marijuana should be a lowest-level enforcement priority and that it should be fully legalized at the state level.” Mayor Frey released in a statement on June 7th. “That support for full legalization, however, does not negate the need for our officers to make the necessary arrests to get guns off our streets and end the sale of life-threatening narcotic drugs like heroin,” Frey said. “The fact that racial disparities are so common nationwide in the enforcement of marijuana laws is one of the reasons I support full legalization.”

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