In light of a unanimous Thursday afternoonvote by the Durham City Council authorizingthe city manager to work with the Durham Police Department to figure out how tohave police issue citations and warnings forlow-level marijuana offenses in lieu of makingarrests—nice work, Durham, for real—wereached out to Raleigh officials to see if the state capital might take a page out of the Bull City’s book.
Oddly enough, according to Raleigh Police Department spokesman Jim Sughrue, Oak City cops are ahead of the game. While he could not immediately provide evidence supporting his claim, Sughrue said the vast majority of pot arrests only happen because the arrestee has been charged with somethingother than possession. “I’ve been here thirteen years, and I do not remember any enforcement project that was targeted at anyone for simple possession of marijuana. By the same token, if marijuana is discovered, the officers would not be in a position where they decide which laws toenforce and which laws they don’t. For simple possession of marijuana, almost everyone receives a citation.” But Police Accountability Community Task Force spokesman Akiba Byrd tells a different story, one in which whites dominate the city’s population—69 percent of residents are white and 21 percent are black—and blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rate, but 67 percent of those arrested on pot offenses in the city are black. “We know from our lived experience that cops are walking up to black people daily and saying, ‘We smell marijuana,’ and they use that as an excuse, whether there’s any marijuana present or not,” he says. Besides, the city’s official stance appears to contradict what Sughrue says RPD’s position is. Asked by PACT to deprioritize marijuana enforcement, the city responded in July: “Marijuana is currently a controlledsubstance in North Carolina. Any decision to alter enforcement practices would require thoughtful conversation with the Council, Legislature and Wake County District Attorney.” Confused? Yeah, us too.