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 2016 review of New York City marijuana arrest data by the Police Reform Organizing Project reported that approximately 85 percent of those arrested for lowest level marijuana possession violations were black or Latino.
Prior to the enactment of decriminalization, an analysis of marijuana possession arrest data in Chicago by reported that the ratio of black to white arrests for cannabis possession violations is 15 to 1.
Prior to the enactment of a Washington, DC voter-initiated law depenalizing minor marijuana possession crimes, African Americans were eight times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana-related crimes.