From January through April of 2018, the Minneapolis Police Department engaged in an undercover operation that netted 47 low-level marijuana-related arrests. Undercover officers in 46 of the 47 arrests approached Black people attempting to purchase $10-20 worth of marijuana. When these low-level offenders were busted, they later found themselves charged with drug felonies for possession of marijuana.
It was such a blatant selective enforcement of laws that the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office wrote a motion to the court. Hennepin County public defender Jess Braverman wrote in the motion: “Officers have directly asked black men to facilitate drug deals with other black men, and have then requested that the facilitator be charged with the sale…Officers are seeking out extremely low-level marijuana transactions with people of color and are then arresting and booking the sellers and submitting the cases for felony charging.”
The arrests were seen to be so egregious in nature that Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey ordered police to stop the undercover operations, specifically marijuana enforcement. The Washington Post reported that Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo agreed with the mayor’s decision and stated, “We will discontinue specific, low-level marijuana enforcement, and I agree with the mayor’s decision.”
So far, a quarter of the people charged in the sting operation have had charges dismissed. In other cases, those arrested were given intervention options or pretrial diversions. Frey released a statement which says in part, “I believe strongly that marijuana should be a lowest-level enforcement priority and that it should be fully legalized at the state level. The fact that racial disparities are so common nationwide in the enforcement of marijuana laws is one of the reasons I support full legalization.”