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Campaigners demand reform as official figures show one in five found guilty of cannabis possession is black
By Kate Devlin
One in five of those found guilty of cannabis possession in England and Wales last year was black, official figures show, prompting accusations of racial injustice at the heart of the UK’s drug laws.
Campaigners said the rate was grossly disproportionate when only an estimated 3 per cent of the population is black. The latest figures, obtained from the Ministry of Justice, show one in five, 21 per cent, of those convicted in 2018-19 was black. But the true figure could be even higher, because in 23 per cent of cases data on ethnicity was not recorded. Nearly one in 10, 8.2 per cent, of those found guilty were Asian, while 42 per cent were listed as white, according to the data.
Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, an independent charity which campaigns on drugs and drugs law, said: “Unfortunately, these shocking figures are unsurprising. Our drug laws are being used as an excuse for police officers to target young black men in particular, with the ‘smell of cannabis’ being routinely used as a ground for a search.”
She added: “The drug laws are not only outdated but they allow for racial harassment by law enforcement and it is high time we reformed these laws by ending criminal sanctions for possession.”