Neal says marijuana arrest numbers show that approach -- and maybe the law -- has to change in Ky.

06/26/2013 05:52 PM

State Sen. Gerald Neal of Louisville said he’s now open to considering legalizing marijuana after seeing the results of an ACLU study that showed black people are six times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in Kentucky.

“No one will tell you that we’re winning the war on drugs. But if we’re going to take that all the way down to marijuana usage and we’re looking in the context of what we’re talking now in terms of police enforcement and the disproporationality in terms of arrests … I’d have to say we need to take a very strong look at that,” Neal said (3:30 of the first interview segment). “And I’m leaning toward the fact that we probably should do something that neutralizes the criminality as it relates to marijuana usage.”

The study , released earlier this month by the ACLU of Kentucky, shows that the rate in Kentucky is nearly twice as high as the national average in which black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested than whites. Among the recommendations in the ACLU’s report was decriminalizing marijuana.

Neal was quoted in the Courier-Journal after the report came out as saying it shows that there is “targeting.” But he said to start the interview segment that it’s more complicated than that:

In a separate segment, Neal said he disagreed with Tuesday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act. The court ruled 5-4 that the law went too far by requiring local and state governments in 15 states to get federal approval before changing any voting laws, procedures or polling locations.

The ruling doesn’t affect Kentucky, and Neal said he doesn’t expect it to open the door to efforts to add new requirements to voting, such as requiring a government-issued ID to vote as some candidates have suggested in the past.

Legislative leaders in both parties are too “sophisticated” to attempt that, Neal said.


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