Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests


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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, a 2020 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, concluded, “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.” Authors reported, “In every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some states, Black people were up to six, eight, or almost ten times more likely to be arrested. In 31 states, racial disparities were actually larger in 2018 than they were in 2010.”
  • These findings were similar to the ACLU’s 2013 analysis, which had previously 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 2020 analysis of marijuana-related citations and arrests in Albany, New York for the time period July 9, 2019 to July 9, 2020 reported, “97 percent of the time, those arrested or ticketed were Black. Only four white people were charged with marijuana offenses during the time period despite nationwide evidence that shows Black and white people use marijuana at roughly the same rate.”
  • A 2018 analysis of marijuana possession arrest data in Alabama for the years 2012-2016 reported, “black people were approximately four times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana possession (both misdemeanors and felonies) in 2016 – and five times as likely to be arrested for felony possession. These racial disparities exist[ed] despite robust evidence that white and black people use marijuana at roughly the same rate.”
  • 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.”