Marvin Scott’s death in prison sparked anger among cannabis and racial justice activists
Marvin Scott’s death in prison after being arrested for cannabis use puts the spotlight on Texas and the fact that medical cannabis patients and black people are unjustly attacked by US police.
Marvin Scott was arrested this March for a crime of less than two ounces of cannabis. He was taken to the hospital for allegedly acting erratically, but was then taken to prison where he died. Scott was 26 years old.
Following the incident, seven of the officers involved in his arrest were released for alleged involvement in his death. Marvin Scott suffered from schizophrenia and, according to his family, experienced an episode during his arrest. Although no official cause of death was disclosed, Scott was held in bed, sprayed with pepper, and forced to wear a “spit mask” while in prison. Some have speculated that the cause of death was asphyxiation, although this has not been confirmed by the authorities and experts working on the case.
“He used [marijuana] self-medicate after being diagnosed with schizophrenia at two years old, ”said Lee Merritt, his family lawyer. “Here, in a largely white area [in Allen, Texas], [Marvin Scott] stood out. He didn’t even have the benefit of the doubt as someone going to a medical facility. “
Marvin Scott, Racial Discrimination and Cannabis Arrests
Racial profiles and discrimination played a role in the arrest, according to Merritt, a civil rights activist. According to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union, blacks are 3.64 times more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis, even though both groups use the substances equally. In the state of Texas in particular, Texas NORML reports that blacks are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession.
“Nobody should die in a prison cell for having plants,” said Jax Finkel, executive director of NORML in Texas. “It reflects what we’ve seen a lot across the country and in Texas.”
Texas NORML reports that blacks make up nearly 30 percent of all cannabis possession arrests in the state, according to data collected in 2017. As the recent protests against Black Lives Matter have shown, these statistics have remained consistent over the years and across the country.
“I don’t want to say that this is a panacea and suddenly the racial differences disappear because we know there is more work to be done,” said Finkel. “Cannabis is only part of the conversation when it comes to social justice.”
While Merritt claims officials have done some work to change guidelines and make sure things like this don’t happen again, he admits there is a lot more work that needs to be done to make things fair. “The [Dallas] Police chief has said he is adopting new guidelines so that someone with as little marijuana as is found can be found [Marvin Scott] was, the policy is not to arrest them, ”Merritt said. “This is an opportunity to eliminate the differences in marijuana policing and the consequences of it. The damage done by the federal government in the war on drugs is an ongoing policy. “
The more stories of racial injustices related to cannabis emerge, the stronger the drive for federal legalization, an end to the ban, and the deletion of criminal records for those charged and convicted of a cannabis-related crime . At the very least, many in the United States are hoping for a federal decriminalization of cannabis, especially as more and more people are being educated about the racist roots of the ban. The next few years will show whether this dream can become a reality.