An Open Letter to Charlotte City Council

December 4, 2017

Vi Lyles, Mayor

Larken Egleston, District 1

Justin Harlow, District 2

LaWana Mayfield, District 3

Greg Phipps, District 4

Matt Newton, District 5

Tariq Bokhari, District 6

Ed Driggs, District 7

Dimple Ajmera, Member-At-Large

Julie Eiselt, Member-At-Large

James Mitchell, Jr., Member-At-Large

Braxton Winston II, Member-At-Large


Charlotte NORML wishes to extend congratulations to all returning members, and the newcomers, on winning election to the Charlotte City Council. Charlotte is a growing city facing many challenges, and we are hopeful of meeting them head on.

While we acknowledge our City’s racial diversity, there exists a “tale of two cities” wedge between our immense wealth and our hidden pockets of deep poverty. And one of the greatest issues facing Charlotte’s citizens and police force is a rise in violent crime.

In 2016, according to CMPD figures, there were:

  • 68 homicides (from 60 the previous year, up 16.7 percent).
  • 2,120 robberies (from 1,947, up 8.9 percent).
  • 279 rapes (down from 282).
  • 4,148 aggravated assaults (up from 3,723).
  • 2,764 vehicle thefts (up from 2,208).
  • 228 arson cases (up from 224).
  • 6,734 burglaries (down from 6,832, however, commercial burglaries went up 6.9 percent.)

Our question for you is this: Can we stop wasting police time and taxpayer dollars on de minimis marijuana offenses, and turn our focus instead onto crimes against people?

As a City Council member, you need to know that CMPD officers are given the discretion whether to arrest or issue a citation to persons found to be in possession of up to ½ ounce of marijuana. CMPD Stats: Possession of marijuana- half ounce or less, A Crime Analysis Overview – 2/5/2016 by does show a downward trend in number of arrests across ALL RACES from 2011 to 2015.

TABLE I – Number of Arrests for Sole Charge

Possession of up to ½ of Marijuana (per CMPD) – ALL RACES

Year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Black 695 643 562 459 451 336
Hispanic 46 32 31 21 12 13
White 73 86 66 48 36 29
Total 814 761 659 528 499 378

Here are the percentages for the same numbers, same charge:

TABLE II – PERCENTAGES of Arrests BY RACE for Sole Charge

Possession of up to ½ of Marijuana (Analysis by Charlotte NORML)

Year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Black 695/814 = 85% 643/761 = 84.5% 562/659 = 85% 459/528 = 87% 451/499 = 90.4% 336/378 = 89%
Hispanic 46/814 = 6% 32/761 = 4.2% 31/659 = 5% 21/528 = 4% 12/499 = 2.4% 13/378 = 3%
White 73/814 = 9% 86/761 = 11.3% 66/659 = 10% 48/528 = 9% 36/499 = 7.2% 29/378 = 8%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

However, the number of arrests tell only part of the story. Looking at the number of arrests alone, it would appear that very few people in Charlotte are charged with petty possession however, CMPD has not provided the data for number of people who were merely given citations for possession of ½ ounce or less. Across the 6 years examined, this analysis shows an increase in percentage of Blacks arrested for possession of petty amounts, and a decrease in percentage of Hispanics and whites arrested.

In 2015, according to data from North Carolina Court System, the #1 criminal charge in Mecklenburg County was Possession of up to ½ ounce of marijuana (3,431 charged); 1,612 were charged with Possession of marijuana paraphernalia; and 267 were charged with Possession of ½ to 1½ ounces of marijuana.

By comparison, 567 were charged with possession of cocaine, and 185 with possession of heroin. Since Mecklenburg County encompasses several other towns as well, these charges do not reflect only on Charlotte.

The following year, 2016, the #1 criminal charge in Mecklenburg County was, again, Possession of up to ½ ounce of marijuana (3,221 charged); 1,770 were charged with Possession of marijuana paraphernalia; and 316 were charged with Possession of ½ to 1½ ounces of marijuana.

By comparison, 517 were charged with possession of cocaine, and 200 with possession of heroin. No demographic data was provided by the NC Court System.

HERE IS THE POINT: The significant racial disparity in marijuana possession arrests for insignificant amounts is disturbingly all too common in the United States.

We contend that unjust enforcement of specific laws is in fact unnecessary, and that type of enforcement engenders disrespect for the law as a whole. Unjust enforcement engenders disrespect for police officers in particular. We believe that disrespect for the law and for the police benefits no one, and harms our City.

We are also aware that North Carolina is not a “home rule” state, and that the power to change laws is restricted to the General Assembly. Therefore, as advocates for legal reform, we suggest a two-fold strategy.

First, we are encouraging the Charlotte City Council to study the examples of Asheville and Durham. In June 2017, the Asheville City Council passed a resolution urging the General Assembly to institute a medical marijuana program. In Durham, FADE (Fostering Alternatives to Drug Enforcement) and the Self Help Credit Union have urged the city to de-prioritize enforcement of laws relating to possession of less than ½ ounce of marijuana or possession of marijuana paraphernalia. As of November 2016, Durham PD officers have been instructed to issue citations for misdemeanor possession.

Steve Schewel, the newly elected mayor of Durham has openly advocated decriminalization and written consent policies.

Charlotte NORML would like to offer the Charlotte City Council information regarding medical marijuana and municipal/state lowest law enforcement/decriminalization bills. We seek alliances within the community to encourage the Council to examine proposals to change police policies, and we seek to generate petitions to gauge city-wide support for medical marijuana and decriminalization.

Second, we are aware that a number of State legislators from Charlotte have been stalwarts in the battle to reform marijuana laws in the General Assembly.  Since 2009, multiple State legislators representing Charlotte have sponsored/co-sponsored 10 bills to enact medical marijuana programs, co-sponsored two CBD extract bills for patients with intractable epilepsy, sponsored/co-sponsored two decriminalization bills, and sponsored a bill to legalize industrial hemp farming. We urge Democratic and Republican legislators representing Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to support both medical marijuana and true decriminalization.  We challenge you to examine your sense of justice and your beliefs as community leaders.  It is our well-founded belief that these reforms will bring about a more just, and more sane society.


The Charlotte NORML Board of Directors


Marcus D. Jones, Charlotte City Manager

Kerr Putney, Chief of Police

Kelly M. Alexander, Jr., Representative – District 107

John Autry, Representative – District 100

Chaz Beasley, Representative – District 92

Mary Belk, Representative – District 88

John R. Bradford, III, Representative – District 98

William Brawley, Representative – District 103

Becky Carney, Representative – District 102

Carla D. Cunningham, Representative – District 106

Andy Dulin, Representative – District 104

Beverley M. Earle, Representative – District 101

Rodney W. Moore, Representative – District 99

Scott Stone, Representative – District 105

Dan Bishop, Senator – District 39

Joel D. M. Ford, Senator – District 38

Jeff Jackson, Senator – District 37

Jeff Tarte, Senator – District 41

Joyce Waddell, Senator – District 40