Blunt Assessment: Inner-City Blacks Continue to Suffer Disproportionately Under Philly's War on Weed

By Nina Hoffmann
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 14 | Posted Mar. 1, 2011

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Blunt force: A distribution warehouse in South Philadelphia.

Photo by Ryan Strand

And because weed is the most common product in the illegal drug trade, there is always an opportunity to make an arrest.

“I'm a big supporter of marijuana,” says West Philly-born rapper Tone Trump, as he and his boy Smutty blaze a sweet-smelling blunt inside a burgundy Acura parked outside the house Trump grew up in near 54th and Market streets. “It’s natural, it’s relaxing. We smoke the Gucci of weed … official fucking purple [haze].”

Trump says the entire weed culture is a lose-lose situation for inner-city blacks. As the demographic most likely to be arrested for pot possession and use, they’ve become both the victims of marijuana prohibition’s policies and the target audience for the drug’s use.

“That shit is a set-up,” Trump says. “Walk into any store in the hood … you’ll see cigars,” says the rapper, looking relaxed in a burgundy Phillies hat, a black T-shirt and baggy jeans. “They got strawberry and blueberry … they’re putting sexy girls and Lil Wayne on the blunt covers. They’re doing so many things to beautify weed … It’s just like when you watchin’ TV, the commercial they show you is for the demographic they think is watching.

“When they put [rappers on wrappers] … they market that shit directly to these kids. If you stand in the corner store for 20 minutes, and think about what the people are buying … Blunts is the common purchase.”

Trump, who was busted last year for possessing less than a gram of weed, believes nobody should be convicted for smoking weed. “We got all these legal accessories for marijuana. And then you can’t smoke it. It’s kinda hypocritical.”

The hypocrisy became abundantly clear just last month, when the state Supreme Court struck down a city ban on cigars and rolling papers, saying that only the state can regulate tobacco products. The ban had quietly been in place since 2007 when Councilman Brian O’Neill pushed through the bill that would prohibit these products, but it was never enforced—the tobacco industry won an injunction almost as soon as the ink dried. The city became aware of paraphernalia in 2005 when local anti-drug activists noticed an abundance of cigars and rolling papers popping up in Sunocos and Wawas in well-to-do neighborhoods, many of which were right next to high schools, and saw this legal drug paraphernalia as a “welcome” sign to kids.

But really, not a whole lot has changed since the war on weed began decades ago. The kids are still smoking.

On a different day outside room 404, black men gather in the hallway near the bench to talk about legalization.

An especially young-looking kid walks out, looking left, then looking right, before he chimes in. He’s younger than the rest but his feelings are the same. “It seems silly to spend all this money [criminalizing] weed,” he says. “Weed should be in the drugstore, like right next to the aspirin.” An older guy chimes in: “It’s not a drug, it’s a plant. The man upstairs put it here.”

The men are alone in the hallway, but every now and then a couple lawyers pass by. They lower their voices temporarily, as if even the mention of enjoying weed will get them arrested.

“If the cops can’t find a suspect, they’ll grab whoever’s outside,” one of them says. As much as the guys outside 404 love talking about weed, they love talking about the cops more. “They’ll take it out on the community.”

Another says: “Yeah, and how did [the undercover narcs] get those clothes? They’re always showin’ up in different uniforms. Starbucks. Comcast. Shit!” The group erupts in loud laughter.

At that moment, a sharply dressed couple walks out. They look out of place—the unofficial dress code in Room 404 is a hoodie, jeans and sneakers. The couple, who use air quotes when they talk about not living a “black” neighborhood, is split over legalization. He isn’t sure. She’s definitely against it: “It’s one thing to be against the arrests; it’s another to be for legalization.”

The other men look at her but don’t comment. They clearly don’t see a difference. As they talk, more men exit—instructions in hand—and join in. They don’t know each other, but in way, they do. They’re brothers in the war on weed.

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Comments 1 - 14 of 14
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1. Anonymous said... on Mar 2, 2011 at 07:56PM

“Based on which scientific facts is the government justifying the destruction of cannabis smokers lives.”

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2. Jason Matthew Mueller said... on Mar 2, 2011 at 10:44PM

“"We all agree tonight, all of the speakers have agreed, that America has a very serious problem. Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem. America's problem is us. We're her problem. The only reason she has a problem is she doesn't want us here. And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow, a so-called Negro, you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you're not wanted...

We have a common enemy. We have this in common: We have a common oppressor, a common exploiter, and a common discriminator. But once we all realize that we have a common enemy, then we unite...

So I cite these various revolutions, brothers and sisters, to show you that you don't have a peaceful revolution. You don't have a turn-the-other-cheek revolution There's no such thing as a nonviolent revolution." Excerpts from Malcolm X's "Message to the Grass Roots"”

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3. Anonymous said... on Mar 3, 2011 at 11:15AM

“What is a Hugo Chavez inspired jacket? you mean Che?”

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4. chronic attack said... on Mar 3, 2011 at 06:04PM

“its a racket, 200$, and then six months later it will be xpunged, i have a bridge the crosses the delaware to nj, arrest 200 potheads,time that number by 200 , yeah this is the citys new money maker, the usa needs to realize this will soon be sold in vegas, ac, all the tourist traps, if u cant handle weed, then u got problems, lohan ,sheen ,agulleria”

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5. Anonymous said... on Mar 4, 2011 at 09:40PM

“the six months is really ridiculous... there's no reason it should take more than 30 days to have that drop from your record. Did the DA give reason as to why it takes this long?

Who the hell cares anyway if there is a pot arrest on your record... most progressive employers understand that's not a risk. We're one of them. Our best staff are regular pot smokers.”

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6. Milo Cronos said... on Mar 5, 2011 at 08:36AM

“As a member of N.O.R.M.L. and a firm believer in legalization I have to say to all the potheads out there.Your public tokings are ruining any chance of legalization the public doesn't care when it's done in private as the article should have told you it's not a black problem it's a dumbass pothead issue. I've smoked freely in private for over 20 years as a stoner who respects the fact that what the public doesn't know it doesn't perceive as a threat.Your public displays are not cool it just shows how stupid you are, take it inside and we can all smoke legally a lot sooner!”

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7. Anonymous said... on Mar 5, 2011 at 01:19PM

“Possession on street -- illegal. Why is this hard to understand for a bunch of Boo Hoo whiners.”

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8. Anonymous said... on Mar 6, 2011 at 08:50AM

“While I understand your frustrations Milo, your perceptions are a little off.

Allow me to use an analogy to prove my point. You say that things done in private the general public doesn't perceive as a threat. When was the last time you walked into a bar and heard 5 people plotting an attack of any sort?

If decriminalization were to happen, we would need to have the transparency that the american people as a whole deserve. If there is nothing wrong with what you're doing there should be no problem with allowing people to see you do it.

What's at issue here is profiling, and even if you decriminalize weed...without transparency you add fuel to that fire. Those against legalization claim that MJ is a gateway to more dangerous illicit drugs, and thus a higher crime rate would ensue. We need to be able to show them that it indeed is not. By imbibing MJ in the public eye we leave no question as to what exactly is going on, instead of having people assume the worst case scenario.”

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9. Jonny Goldstein said... on Mar 8, 2011 at 12:01PM

“Glad to see this article. It takes a long time to change policy, but I see it gradually happening. I am happy to see stories like this chipping away at our counterproductive prohibition of a relatively innocuous plant. To all you folks out there who condemn marijuana: don't consume it. Those of us who do use it responsibly should not be criminalized for it. I know kindergarten teachers, doctors, and lawyers who consume cannabis, either for medical or recreational purposes, and managing to lead productive lives. Of course they are white, older, and middle class, so they don't end up getting arrested. We are going to look back at this last 80 years and go "what were we thinking? this was barbaric." Hats off to you for writing this.

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10. DonJ said... on Mar 12, 2011 at 02:26AM

“There making money on you and still keeping hemp, that makes paper, cloth, plastic and fuel possible without petroleum illegal. The same group that killed the electric car, had it recalled and destroyed it is still stopping hemp from being grown. It was legal before prohibition of alcohol, and after prohibition?.. no alcohol stations, only gas stations. Getting the picture? Hemp was this countries biggest crop before it was made illegal.”

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11. DaveMan50 said... on Mar 12, 2011 at 03:09PM

“Dear Jodi,
I read the quote from you that ended with “but in a way that’s productive and cost-efficient and smart.” Can you explain that last part??? What in hell is productive about criminalizing someone because they happen to like Cannabis? How can you call offering a captive the choice of punishment or addiction treatment, when they are not addicted to anything?
Of course it’s cost-efficient not to go to trial when you have no real evidence that Cannabis is bad in any way. The laws that you are supporting and enforcing are just there to punish those that happen to like Cannabis. So in no way is this productive or smart. Please wake up and think if you can.

DaveMan50 (

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12. shotime said... on Mar 14, 2011 at 06:28AM

“From making this a racial issue, to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. and some real deep thinkers like "it's illegal" end of story, the real point is missed. Legalization of weed is something this country needs to adopt, and stop all the diversion from that need. Legalize it, tax it, and stop the waste of money and affect on people's lives on the criminalization of something that has been nothing more than a political debate. The national debt could probably be paid off, and we wouldn't have the disasters that occur from smuggling a plant. Don't bogart that joint.”

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13. dannyboy602 said... on Apr 18, 2012 at 01:01AM

“Blah Blah Blah...Ima grow it anyway. FUK the pigs. If your gonna go down might as well go down big:P”

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14. amir rousr said... on May 4, 2012 at 09:00AM

“This is really true i just had to do this program i hated that shit”


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