Interesting Tweets from Council Member Marion Barry

It is no secret that Council Member Marion Barry is a prolific tweeter about politics, sports and popular culture.

But scanning tweets last night – this one jumped out at me:

From NBC Washington:

“The Council invited the public to testify Wednesday and Thursday on a bill that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, making it a $100 fine rather than an arrest and a criminal record.”

69 Comment

  • Why did it jump out at you? Are you implying a point or opinion on this matter? Just curious.

    • I assume it jumped out because it’s absurd. Eliminate odor as probable cause? How about other senses, like sight. Maybe young black men shouldn’t be targeted for waiving bags of pot in plain view.
      For what it’s worth, I favor legalization.

  • maybe poorly worded, but barry does have a point.

    • ah

      How so? I can see the point if marijuana is decriminalized so that smoking pot isn’t illegal, and thus smelling like pot gives no indication of illegal activity.

      But if possessing pot is illegal, why is smelling like pot not a decent indication that you possess it–because you’ve probably already smoked it all?

      • it seems his point is that blacks are overwhelmingly criminalized for pot arrests, with numbers as high as 90% of all marijuana arrests.

        • That is an entirely different issue. Banning using odor as probable cause versus profiling black men are two entirely separate issues. Barry’s point is certainly one worthy of discussion, but his solution is absurd and shows he has zero idea what probable cause even is.

          • It is not worthy of discussion. If you want to legalize it (you should) then legalize it. Otherwise, getting rid of odor as probable cause, is simply saying ignore it, which is not ok. Laws need to be enforced. If they are unjust or improper, then they should be repealed.

        • This is undoubtedly true, but it seems crazy to me to try to solve the problem by eliminating odor as probable cause. You might as well just say that pot is going to be legal because we can’t arrest you for it. So, just legalize it and don’t make silly changes to the probable cause standard.
          And, in my opinion, the real problem is not pot odor but disproportionate enforcement of traffic laws. Driving while black is a real issue in this city. The cops smell the pot in the car because they have pulled the driver over for an offense that I, as a white man, would never be stopped for.

      • Because there’s no way to corroborate that claim. We can’t capture smells like we can visual or audio evidence, so we’re forced to take a policeman’s word about it. And it’s not like police have never lied or planted evidence before.

        • Sure, cops sometimes lie, but they can also lie about having seen the pot. I don’t see why smell is more susceptible to falsification than anything else.

          • ah

            +1. If odor of pot is leading to searches that result in arrests for pot, it seems pretty reasonable. We can discuss legalization and whether cops are targeting blacks more than whites, but that’s not a probably cause issue.

            If the odor of pot is leading to arrests for other things (say weapons, or outstanding warrants, or even other drugs) then it seems like it could be pretextual and we should worry about whether cops are making it up, just like they do in NY when they say someone is walking suspiciously as an excuse for a stop and frisk.

  • MB is the black Sarah Palin… just saying things to get a rise out of people.

  • Sounds only slightly odd to me. Weed has a unique odor but Barry seems to imply that cops use it too liberally (or fabricate probable cause based on odor) in order to detain young black men. Decriminalization would be a very good step forward. Legalization (with a great deal of regulation) is even better. Both would help take weed off the table as justification for police action, a waste of policing and potentially disastrous to the person detained.

  • Mayor Barry for Mayor!!!!

  • But if blacks are actually smoking WAYYYY more than whites per capita is it really disproportionate targeting? I think not!

    • Are blacks actually smoking WAYYYY more than whites?

      • No, they are not. They are, however, getting harsher sentences for getting caught than whites.

        • I agree it’s backwards, and I’m in favor of legalization. However, it’s been my experience that many black teenagers will blatantly smoke out in the open- on their front porches, on the streets. My neighbors are a prime example. I honestly don’t give a crap that they’re smoking, but if a cop were to walk by, or if someone else had a problem with it, it would be super easy to bust them as the odor carries all the way down the block. Since it’s not legal, this just seems like a highly illogical thing to do. Most of the white people I know who smoke do it behind closed doors- not out on their front porches.

          • Right.. As a leader of the black community, maybe he should encourage young black men not to give the police probable cause in the first place. Or maybe he enjoys their Instagram videos of them getting high and driving dirt bikes and quads undetected through DC’s streets with no regard for the safety of others..

        • Bingo. They actually smoke less and are arrested way more frequently for it. I wonder why that is?

          • probably because they are so arrogant about it. if they could stay inside and do it in privacy like the whites then nobody would care. don’t troll around in your car blazin up lookin for trouble and you won’t get busted. also stop shooting and killing because people are on your turf slangin.

    • Nope, not even close to the facts. Users of marijuana by race: (2007)

      White: 45.2%
      Black: 38%
      Hispanic: 26.8%

    • lovefifteen

      Black Americans do not smoke more weed than white Americans. Please educate yourself instead of making incorrect assertions.

      • No matter what the accusation there’s always some white apologist who feels bad about slavery 200 years ago and ignores the issue at hand. Cops aren’t the problem, people breaking the law are the problem. If you can’t see that then you’re too caught up watching The Daily Show.

        • That’s a flawed assumption that there’s a connection between advocating against racism and for equity/equal justice; and being an “apologist” for slavery. Obviously, I think slavery was a tremendous injustice and a shameful part of our country’s history. But do I feel compelled to personally apologize for it? No, and that wouldn’t do any good, anyway. None of us were alive back then, I suspect for many of us (like me) our ancestors weren’t even in the United States yet–and in any case, we can’t go back in time and undo slavery. However, we CAN and we ought to address disparities that are in place, here and now, in 2013, examples of those being race-based assumptions and stereotypes as well as unequal application or enforcement of certain laws. There’s nothing “apologist” about that.

    • Do you think that this is the case though?

      That the arrests made represent the ammount that is smoked by each race?

  • I understand where he is coming from but i dont think its pratical at all

    first thing that came to mind was drunk driving. like if you are oulled over and smell like a bar they cant use that to further the investigation??

    • If someone is suspected of drunk driving, they can do a breathalyzer test — and have some apparently objective results. As far as I know, there’s nothing similar for marijuana.

  • Do what our former Drug Czar and current head of CBP Gil Kerlikowske did when he was Seattle’s Chief of Police – make marijuana the lowest priority for police on the beat. This is something Kathy Lanier can do today that would have a positive impact on our city. Young black men suffer from disproportional arrests for use/possession of marijuana. An arrest or jail time for marijuana makes getting a job difficult leading to other social problems.
    We can wait on legalization if cops are allowed to prioritize other more pressing and serious crimes over busting anyone for a small amount of marijuana for personal use.

    Tommy Wells gets this – Lets make him mayor in 2014!

  • Or maybe young black males can smoke inside, like white people, and never get molested by the average street cop. Try getting a judge to sign off on a search warrant on just the smell of marijuana on a residence.

    • Maybe you should think your comment through more. Most of the weed strains around now, smell so strong, that it permeates the car, just from being in the bag.

  • Any merit to this idea is overwhelmed by the hilarity of Marion Barry’s proposing it.

  • On our little block of about 20 houses, about half the residents are white, the other half black. We all get along pretty well. One thing I’ve noticed is that there are two houses where black families live and guys congregate in front of them (like 5 – 10 guys for each house, all black) multiple times a week smoking weed openly. They don’t hide it. Everyone has to walk through it. No other people on our block do that. What I’m wondering is whether it’s a cultural or socioeconomic thing. Not a function of race obviously, but if there’s a link to poverty or some other factor that does disproportionately affect people who are black.

    • Yes, this. Same with my block. Actually, same with every neighborhood I’ve lived in (which is quite a few since I’ve lived here a little over a decade).

    • I think it’s a cultural difference between African-Americans and whites that has its roots in economic and political disenfranchisement. That is, African-American social interactions happen primarily in public spaces, with less importance placed on “privacy” and “private property” than for social interactions that occur in white culture.
      It’s something you’ll just need to accept as a white family moving into an area that has historically been African-American.

      • That’s sort of what I think too, mainly just from observation and personal experience.

      • Meanwhile, as an African-American who attended a predominantly White college, I was startled by the stuff that White kids do in public — and get away with.

        • Oh, there’s definitely selective enforcement going on, as well. The cops are way more likely to give the white kids a “warning,” confiscate the pot, and send them back home without consequences. A black kid would never get that slap-on-the-wrist treatment.

        • Do tell. What stood out to you as odd/interesting/flagrant? Sincerely interested in your perspective…

          • First, the sheer amount of alcohol that was around — lots of underage drinking, and lots of drinking period. Brunches with bloody marys and mimosas, beer and liquor chugging contests — and people bragging about how much they drank, and what they did while drunk. Students known as “dealers”, and flinging around prescription drugs like M & Ms. I was shocked by the behaviors — which were totally foreign to my experience, and even more shocked that there were minimal consequences. That’s just the tip of it — but the idea that you couldn’t have fun without alcohol — from brunch to a football game — blew my mind. Freshman year I went to parties expecting music, food, dancing, and maybe a little conversation, and instead, found a lot of inebriated people who seemed to reach for every opportunity they could find to be less inhibited — “break the rules” — with no apparent negative consequences.

          • Guarantee you it’s the exact same thing at Howard

          • Anonymous 2:10 — I’m curious — what are you basing your guarantee on? Did you go to Howard? And if so, when were you there? There might be regional differences and generational factors as part of the mix as well.

          • I’m white and I’m gonna agree with the guy who was shocked by white people in college.

            I grew up here, I went to public schools and lived in CH, my best friend went to private school though so I had close friends in every demographic.

            Here are a few random examples:

            A white kid I knew just got a bunch of weed and was on his 2nd 40oz at about 2pm, he proceeded to drive back home to VA. He got pulled over, beer in hand, no search, no ticket, just a warning, he was saved by his race and his VA tags. This is the most egregious but these events were SO common. Getting caught with weed while white usually just meant they broke your pipe and took your stuff.

            A black friend of mine got picked up by a friend, friend asks him to drive, they get pulled over, turns out the car had been abandoned (not stolen) he is charged with UUV and was given a one year sentence.

            Overall, my white friends were into much worse stuff than my black friends (harder drugs, more violence, dealing, speeding, driving drunk, promiscuity, etc).

            I’ve been to Howard parties and I’ve been to liberal arts school parties up north; I guarantee you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about. To be fair, half the reason many of those schools have such a strong party culture is because they are in the middle of nowhere and there is nothing to do, Howard is not in the middle of nowhere.

          • LOL as if you white guys got invited to the realness parties @ Howard!

    • Here’s a possible SES factor: It’s likely that poorer people live in more crowded circumstances and have less privacy. People with less access to private spaces tend to do things in public that people with more access to privacy would do in private. Throw being a teenage male into the mix and that likely means that these public things are being done with less sense of the possible consequences of their behavior and a fair amount of swagger. Just a thought…..

      • All good points. You don’t have the luxury of “privacy” and “private property” when you’ve got no money to afford it. Human beings have been doing drugs one form or another since the dawn of time, so it’s not like we should just expect poor people to stop doing them simply because they don’t have “privacy.” As a white man, the drug prosecutions are just a massive waste of taxpayer money.

        • You literally just have to WALK INSIDE. that’s FREE

          • Inside of WHERE? You seem to be missing the point here.

          • For most young guys, “stepping inside” would be to step into, say, your grandmother’s house where your baby sisters are. That would be disrespectful — and quite unlikely behavior. No privacy — means, well, No Privacy.

          • Inside the house….
            Like a few of us said above, it is common to see black teenagers smoking pot on the front porch of their house. Perhaps your point is they can’t do it inside because their parents or grandparents or whoever is in there and wouldn’t tolerate it. If that’s the case, fine, but they also have a backyard too so not sure why the front porch is their choice.

          • So true. If you can smoke it on your porch (or your friend’s porch) then you can take it inside. Respect for grandma? What about respect for the rest of the neighborhood who don’t condone ILLEGAL activities. You’re losing sight of the fact they are openly disobeying the law.

          • No — I’m making the point that what most teenagers will do directly in front of people that they respect is likely to be different from what they will do out of their eyesight — even if the behavior itself is not a secret to anybody. I’m also making the very conservative point that respect for family is likely to be different from one’s concern for ‘laws’ and the opinions of strangers.

            I’m not losing sight of anything — please be careful with your assumptions.

    • I have the same thing. They also sell heroin openly. Mostly older guys..

  • This is one time I support Barry. Cops use the smell excuse just to harass most black males. If they can’t find any reason to search your car, this is a fail-safe. How you can refute it?

    And just because it may smell, doesn’t mean they have been smoking it. Most strains of green now, smell strongly through the bag, without smoking it.

    • Thanks for this perspective. I think it’s something that white people just have no experience with, since it doesn’t happen to them. They have no idea what Marion is talking about.

      • And perhaps another one of Barry’s points is suspicion by association. If you’re smoking and I’m with you, my sweater might reek of pot too — even though I haven’t smoked any or possessed any.

        • If you’re friends with pothead thugs with their pants on the ground you’re probably up to no good yourself. People who don’t care about breaking the law in public deserve some harsh justice.

          • Really?
            How about white kids who get “warnings” and sent home without punishment by the cops? That’s happened more times than I can count to my white friends in high school and college. These are the same kids who would illegally race their pick up trucks down the street, do donuts on the football field (causing thousands of dollars in damage), vandalize property, and drive drunk/high nearly every weekend.
            A black kid would get the book thrown at him, if he attempted the same crimes.

          • You sound like a joy to be around.

          • Yeah but what about all the black kids who commit violent crimes like assault/robbery, etc and just get a slap on the wrist and no jail time? It seems to me this city is remarkably lax when it comes to punishment for crime.
            That said, I do agree drug laws were designed as anti-minority and are disproportionately harsher for minorities than white people. If you ask me, it should all just be decriminalized and then police could spend their resources going after actual violent criminals rather than a few kids smoking a joint.

          • You sound like you hate our American freedoms; I want to drone strike your ass.

    • If a white guy is holding weed and it’s strong enough to be smelled by others, a cop will most likely stop him.

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