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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 2018 analysis of marijuana possession arrest data in Louisiana for the year 2016 reported "large racial disparities in arrest rates across the state that would be difficult to explain by different rates of crime commission alone. For example, in 2016, black people were 2.9 times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in Louisiana, despite evidence that black people and white people use marijuana at similar rates. The disparities are much greater in some areas: A black person was six times as likely as a white person to be arrested by the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) for marijuana possession in 2016."
  • A 2017 analysis of low-level marijuana arrest data for the city of Buffalo for the years 2012 to 2016 reported that 86 percent of those arrested were people of color, but that African Americans and Hispanics constituted less than 50 percent of the city’s population. In Erie county, African Americans comprised 71 percent of low level marijuana arrests, but only 13.5 percent of the population.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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