MN: Minneapolis Police Ending Low-Level Marijuana Stings

Photo Credit: Tyisha Fernandes

The Minneapolis Police Department is ending sting operations targeting low-level marijuana sales following a new report that revealed a vast racial disparity in those who were arrested.

The report, prepared by Hennepin County Public Defenders, found that between Jan. 24 and May 24, 46 of the 47 people arrested in low-level marijuana sting operations were black, according to the Star Tribune.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo decided those findings were enough to announce that these sting operations would discontinue. Arradondo said the decision was made at the request of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

“While the intention was good, it had an unintended consequence,” Arradondo said in a news conference.

A police spokesperson told the Star Tribune that arrests for marijuana sales would still continue.

The newspaper reports that Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty called Frey last week to address the racial disparity and that Frey promised the sting operations would stop.

Moriarty is demanding that all of the 47 cases be dismissed, adding that one person arrested in these stings has already been sent to prison.

“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,” Moriarty said.

The Star Tribune notes that assistant county public defender Jess Braverman wrote in a court document that the arrests have “have resulted in felony convictions for numerous black defendants who had been targeted, and all the devastating collateral consequences that go along with such convictions: jail time, prison time, and even deportation proceedings.”

Frey issued a statement Thursday in which he said he strongly believes marijuana should be legalized at the state level. He did not address the problem of racial disparities in arrests that the Hennepin County Public Defenders’ Office discovered.