Study: Black Arrest Rate For Marijuana Offenses Four Times That Of Whites

New York, NY: African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offenses than are whites, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report released this week that analyzes arrest data from 945 counties nationwide.

The report found that blacks were approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, even though both ethnicities consumed the substance at similar rates. Authors reported that the racial disparity in arrest rates had grown significantly over the past decade and that in some states – including Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – African Americans were nearly eight times as likely as Caucasians to be arrested for cannabis possession.

Overall, blacks were more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis violations in 908 of the 945 counties reviewed by the ACLU.

"We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner," said Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the lead author of the report.

Authors also estimated that states in 2010 spent an estimated $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws, a 30 percent increase from ten years earlier. This total included $1,747,157,206 in police time, $1,371,200,815 to adjudicate marijuana possession cases, and $495,611,826 to incarcerate individuals for marijuana possession.

In 2010, police made nearly 854,000 arrests for marijuana violations.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the ACLU report, "The War on Marijuana in Black and White," is available online at: