Black and White Americans Use Marijuana at Same Rate, but Blacks Far More Likely to be Arrested

Wednesday, June 05, 2013
(photo: AP)

There is no discriminating between blacks and whites when it comes to using marijuana, but there is plenty of discrimination by police when it comes to arresting those caught smoking it.


A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says Caucasians and African-Americans have similar rates of using marijuana.


But blacks are nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, the ACLU found in a review of data from 2010.


In some states, like Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, blacks are eight times as likely to be arrested.


“We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner,” Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the lead author of the report, told The New York Times.


The ACLU report attributed the racial disparity in arrests to, among other things, incentives for racial profiling that are found in federal programs that fund law enforcement around the country. Police departments reportedly find it easier to target minority neighborhoods in order to increase their arrest totals, which are used by the government as performance statistics to help determine funding distribution.


The study is based on an analysis of data that was drawn from police records from every state in the U.S., as well as the District of Columbia. The data was also independently reviewed by Stanford University researchers for the Times.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Blacks Are Singled Out for Marijuana Arrests, Federal Data Suggests (by Ian Urbina, New York Times)

Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests (American Civil Liberties Union)

Marijuana Arrests Keep Drug Enforcers in Business (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Marijuana Arrests in California Target Blacks and Latinos (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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