Seattle Police: African Americans Disproportionately Cited for Illegal Pot Use

Seattle Police: African Americans Disproportionately Cited for Illegal Pot Use

A new report by the Seattle Police Department admits that African Americans have been cited for public pot use in disproportionate numbers to the percentage of the Emerald City population.

The Seattle PD reported that in the first half of 2014–between January and June–82 tickets were issued for public use of marijuana. Seattle legalized pot for recreational use but still bans its use in public places.

Thirty-six percent of the tickets were written to black males, even though African Americans only make up eight percent of Seattle’s population.

Critics of the percentage of tickets issued to African Americans decry the “racial disparity” in the numbers.

The Seattle PD points out that relatively few people are actually issued tickets. Most, they say, are given warnings. But the police insist they are the ones trying to stay mindful of racial bias.

Spokesman for the police department, Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, told the media, “We are the first to say the numbers are disproportionate and that’s precisely the reason we are studying this.”

Police also point out that the tickets were most often issued in the more densely populated parts of the city and only after neighbors called in complaints about open pot use.

Males, both black and white, were ticketed most. About 43% of the 82 tickets were given to white males in a city where whites make up 70% of the population. Offenders who told officers they were homeless also made up a large number of those cited.

When Seattle passed its marijuana law, it set fines for public consumption of the drug at $27, the same rate as fines for open alcohol in public.

The new law was such a hit that the woman who bought the first legal package of marijuana recently donated her purchase to Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry, which plans to put the packet on display.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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