Survey of Baltimoreans’ Experiences with Police Details Cannabis Injustice

A survey by Morgan State University’s Institute for Urban Research titled, “The Community’s Experiences and Perceptions of the Baltimore City Police Department Survey Report,” was released last week, coinciding with  the five-year anniversary of Freddie Gray’s April 19, 2015 death in police custody and the subsequent uprising. The survey, submitted to the Baltimore City Police Department Monitoring Team, shows that a majority of Baltimoreans do not trust the police and are overall, unsatisfied with the Baltimore Police Department.

645 Baltimoreans interviewed between September 25, 2018 and June 30, 2019 for the survey. They spoke to “populations that are traditionally overlooked, underserved, and rarely asked questions often reserved for majority populations,” the report explains. Four hundred of the 645 people interviewed were given $10 for taking the time to participate to “encourage participation, particularly from traditionally underrepresented populations, such as the homeless population.” 

The most significant takeaways from the expansive survey have to do with trust and mistrust of police. Only 12% of the people surveyed believe Baltimore Police are doing a good job serving the city’s communities. 63% disagreed that Baltimore Police are doing a good job.

It is worth taking some time to read the report which deals with a number of significant issues of police malfeasance, especially the part of the survey which reproduces commentary on police and policing in the participants’ own words. The Outlaw Report took some time to locate incidents described in the survey that involve cannabis. These are hardly the most egregious details in the survey but they do illustrate how police continue to perceive cannabis and people who use cannabis and most crucially, how it is often used to stop and search people. The survey divides experiences up between positive, neutral, and negative. Positive, neutral, and negative participant responses are all quoted in full below.

“Cop was smoking weed with people on the street.” 

“I was cutting through a elementary school on Charles st. Going to the basketball court with a basketball in my hand. Two officers on bikes can down the alley and asked if I was buying weed. I wasn’t”

“Someone stole a car and caused a chase. They crashed and fled. Police targeted us and searched us. Try grabbed me and my brother. Found weed on me. Called back up and helicopters. Beat us and punching us. Kept saying “stop resisting” but I wasn’t. They arrested us. Had a court date but they didn’t show up because they were in there wrong. “We fit the description” but they randomly targeted us just to find somebody.”

“Couple people at the park with me smoking weed and they came let everyone go but me. They searched my car, took my weed and wrote me a fine”

“Accused me of having marijuana took me to jail and found the marijuana on my girlfriend. I was arrested anyway. I think it was unlawful.”

“Guys in front of the store was smoking weed. Police come. “Everybody against the fucking wall!” He said racist shit. I said we aint do nothing wrong. He took my food out of my hand, smashed it on the ground, stepped on it. He said,” Got anything else to say?” Pulled his gun out the holsters. People started recording. Then they got a call and had to leave. I asked about $20 worth of food on the ground. He laughed and drove off; One time, police “told me to take my charge like a man” when they falsely accused me of possession of pills. They guys whose pills it was said they were mine. And the police knew that and still charged me. I served 12 of 15 years for that.”

“Me and brother was on the way to school and undercover car stopped and told us we had marijuana, the officers search the car also detained us. When there was no marijuana found they let us go” 

“When pulled over because they said I was speeding and ran a red light, they proceeded to say that my car smelled like marijuana even though they never searched my car. They kept threatening to arrest me and pin the charges of another criminal with my same name on me. They never gave me a report of the traffic stop and refused to give me their cards.”

“Locked up down there for weed and cocaine, they planned on planting the coke on someone”

“Some friends and myself got caught smoking weed and 2 officers came up to the car and told all of us to get out. They handcuffed us and yelled at us the whole time to shut up. One of my friends kept yelling back so that didn’t help our situation. They searched the car and took the weed but only arrested one of my friends cause he kept yelling at them but let us go.”

“One time. Got banked they saw the problem and locked the dudes up. One time I had marijuana paraphernalia and they were nice told me I wasn’t going to get time.”

One outlier is a participant who when asked about the reason for the city’s murder rate said, “because these kids do not have no structure no rec centers no jobs, weed becoming legal.” Cannabis is not “legal” in Baltimore but there is decriminalization and medicinal cannabis.

You can read “The Community’s Experiences and Perceptions of the Baltimore City Police Department Survey Report” here.

Freddie Gray protest image by A. Katz / via Shutterstock

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