New Study Reveals Blacks Arrested For Marijuana At More Than Twice The Rate For Whites

Thursday, 02 November 2000

The entire study can be viewed at the NORML website.

Blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at a two and a half times greater rate than whites, according to a new study published by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Based on 1995 Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data from 700 metropolitan counties, Jon Gettman, Ph.D., a public policy analyst and former NORML director, calculated the ratio of black arrest rates to white arrest rates from 1,076,816 out of a total 1,476,199 drug arrests reported by the UCR. This is the most recent data set to include UCR data, U.S. Census data and the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. The full report is available at www.norml.org.

Some important findings of this report:
* The black arrest rate for all drug offenses is four times the arrest rate for whites.
*When controlling for drug use levels, the black arrest rates for drug offenses increases with the severity of the offense.
* When controlling for drug use levels, the black arrest rate for all drug possession offenses is 2.89 times higher than the white arrest rate.
*Black arrest rate for marijuana is more than twice the white arrest rate in over 4/5 of metropolitan counties.
* Black arrest rates are generally lower in jurisdictions with large black populations, but regardless of the racial composition level the black arrest rate for any drug offense it is typically twice or greater than the white arrest rate for the same offense in the same jurisdiction.
*The disparity between black and white arrest rates for drug offenses increases with the severity of the offense.
*In metro area counties blacks are arrested for marijuana sales at a rate 3.6 times more than whites. In counties where the black population is at least 1/3 of the entire of the population, blacks are 4.1 times more likely than whites to get arrested for marijuana sales.

Marijuana Possession Arrests
Among the metro counties with at least a population of 500,000 with available data the greatest disparities between black and white arrest rates are found within 90 miles from each other in central and western New York state in Onondaga County, NY (Syracuse) at 10.61 blacks for every one white arrest and Monroe County, NY (Rochester) at 5.63. Rounding out the top 10 greatest disparities in black and white marijuana possession arrest rates were Cuyahoga County, OH (Cleveland) at 5.56, Hennepin County, MN (Minneapolis) at 5.31, Fulton County, GA (Atlanta) at 5.12, Hartford County, CT (Hartford) at 4.56, Allegheny County, PA (Pittsburgh) at 4.43, Washington, DC at 4.05, Hamilton County, OH (Cincinnati) at 3.79 and Jackson County, MO (Kansas City) at 3.74.
Fifty-six counties had over 100 marijuana arrests, a black population of over 1,000 and the marijuana possession arrest rate for blacks of at least five times that for whites. Lake County, OH, which includes part of Cleveland as well as Lorain and Elyria had a ratio of 19.77 black arrests to white. Rounding out the top 10 were, St. Joseph County, IN (South Bend) at 11.27, Minnehaha County, SD (Sioux Falls) at 10.71, Onondaga County (Syracuse) at 10.61, Albany County, NY (Albany, Schenectady and Troy) at 10.56, St. Louis County, MN (Duluth and Superior) at 10.34, Bay County, MN (Saginaw, Bay City and Midland) at 8.54, Douglas County, NE (Omaha) at 8.39, Cecil County, MD (Wilmington and Newark) at 8.16 and Schenectady County, NY (Albany, Schenectady and Troy) at 8.0.

Marijuana Sales Arrests
Among counties with a minimum of 100 marijuana arrests and a black population of at least 1,000 blacks are between 6.5 and 35 times more likely to get arrested for marijuana distribution than whites. Broome County, NY (Binghamton), had the highest ratio of black to white arrests at 34.70. In all, 12 counties had ratios over nine. They were: Broward County, FL (Ft. Lauderdale) at 20.35, Erie County, PA (Erie) at 14.08, Plymouth County, MA (Boston) at 12.33, Cobb County, GA (Atlanta) at 12.24, Mercer County, NJ (Trenton) at 12.18, Washington, DC at 12.11, Orange County, FL (Orlando) at 9.83, New York County, NY (New York) at 9.69, Lancaster County, PA (Lancaster) at 9.51, Monroe County, NY (Rochester) at 9.20 and Kent County, MI (Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland) at 9.18.

State Rankings
The states with highest black white arrest rate for marijuana possession are:
1. Nebraska (2,167) 2. S. Dakota (1,541) 3. Wyoming (962.03) 4. Iowa (836.84) 5. Colorado (755.98)

The states with lowest black arrest rate for marijuana possession are:
1. Vermont (0.00) 2. Hawaii (51.36) 3. Maine 85.74) 4. New Mexico (139.57) 5. Pennsylvania (148.92)

"Racial disparities in drug arrests represent a serious threat to the integrity of the criminal justice system that should concern all Americans," said the report's author Jon Gettman, Ph.D. "The differences in arrest rates between blacks and whites are significant, stark and unambiguous. In the United States, black drug users face a far greater chance of encountering the criminal justice system than white drug users. Sadly, in this area, justice is not blind."
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751 or visit the NORML website to read the executive summary, full report and state tables.