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Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests

African Americans are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws at nearly four times the rates of whites, yet both ethnicities consume marijuana at roughly the same rates.

  • Specifically, the The American Civil Liberties Union report The War on Marijuana In Black and White (2013) concluded: "[O]n average, a Black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though Blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates. Such racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small Black populations. Indeed, in over 96% of counties with more than 30,000 people in which at least 2% of the residents are Black, Blacks are arrested at higher rates than whites for marijuana possession."
  • A 2017 analysis of Pennsylvania arrest data found that Black adults were 8.2 times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for possessing marijuana – up from 6.5 percent in 2010. (American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Cannabis Crackdown, 2017)
  • A 2017 analysis of New York City arrest data found that Blacks and Latinos comprised 86 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession violations during the years 2014 to 2016. (Drug Policy Alliance, 60,000 Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio's New York, 2017)
  • A 2017 analysis of New Jersey arrest data found that African Americans are three times more likely than whites to be arrested for violating marijuana possession laws (The American Civil Liberties Union, Unequal & Unfair: NJ's War on Marijuana Users, 2017)
  • A 2017 analysis of Virginia arrest data determined that African Americans are three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as compared to whites and that this disparity is increasing (Capital News Service, The numbers behind racial disparities in marijuana arrests across Virginia). A separate analysis reported that blacks account for nearly half of all marijuana possession arrests in Virginia, but comprise only 20 percent of the state population (Drug Policy Alliance, Racial Disparities in Marijuana arrests in Virginia: 2003-2013, 2015).