Community groups across the country are urging police departments to de-prioritize marijuana enforcement, arguing that pursuing criminal charges for small amounts of the drug wastes both taxpayers’ money and law enforcement resources and disproportionately targets blacks.

The Durham City Council, for example, recently asked City Manager Tom Bonfield and Police Chief C.J. Davis to look at ways to pull back on enforcement for small amounts of marijuana, such as citing people instead of arresting them and levying marijuana charges only when a a person is being investigated for other crimes. Bonfield and Davis said Monday that said they have just started looking at the issue and aren’t ready to discuss how it may be implemented.

“Our officers have more important things to focus on. There are more genuine threats to public safety,” said Mike Meno, a spokesman for the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In addition to using limited resources, Meno said, marijuana enforcement antagonizes communities, especially black neighborhoods. About 80 percent of people charged with marijuana possession are black, while estimates of marijuana usage are evenly divided along racial lines.

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