Winchester, VA: The number of Virginians arrested for violating the state's marijuana possession laws increased 76 percent between the years 2003 and 2014, at a time when arrests for similar violations were falling nationwide, according to an assessment of arrest data provided by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Virginia State Police.
The study, commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance, found that marijuana possession arrests in Virginia spiked from 13,032 in 2003 to 22,948 in 2014. Nationally, cannabis possession arrests declined 6.5 percent during this same period.
The number of African Americans arrested for possessing marijuana climbed from 4,991 in 2003 to 10,293 in 2014 - an increase of 106 percent, the report determined. In 2013, African Americans accounted for nearly half (47 percent) of possession arrests, but comprised only 20 percent of the state population.
A 2013 American Civil Liberties Union report found that nationwide blacks are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though both ethnicities consume the substance at similar rates.
Under Virginia law, the possession of marijuana is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Figures compiled by the ACLU estimates that the enforcement of marijuana possession costs Virginia taxpayers over $67 million annually.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the report, "Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests in Virginia (2003-2013)" appears online at: http://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/Racial_Disparities_in_Marijuana_Arrests_in_Virginia_2003-2013.pdf.