Authorities were nearly 400 percent more likely to arrest people of color than whites for marijuana-related offenses, according to a report released Monday (PDF) by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), despite similar usage rates between 2001 and 2010.
The report, compiled using data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), also determined that 88 percent of arrests related to the drug were related to possession charges. In all, states spent $3.6 billion enforcing those laws, a 30 percent increase from 2001.
“We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner,” lead author Ezekiel Edwards told the New York Times.
While New York state registered the most possession arrests in 2010 with more than 100,000 arrests, Washington D.C. had the highest population arrest rate, with 846 arrests per 100,000 residents. The most egregious racial disparity was found in Iowa, where black residents were eight times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related charge than whites.
“Iowa has been a leading state among civil rights and should not rank as the worst in racial disparities in marijuana arrests,” ACLU Iowa legal director Randall Wilson said to the Des Moines Register. “We all need to take responsibility—whether as citizens, police on the streets, or administrators. We can all do something to change this culture if we truly care about justice and equal opportunity.”
The report found that while marijuana arrests increased overall during the 10-year tracking period, the racial disparity jumped, as well.
“As the overall number of marijuana arrests has increased over the past decade, the white arrest rate has remained constant at around 192 per 100,000,” the study said. “Whereas the Black arrest rate has risen from 537 per 100,000 in 2001 (and 521 per 100,000 in 2002) to 716 per 100,000 in 2010. Hence, it appears that the increase in marijuana arrest rates overall is largely a result of the increase in the arrest rates of blacks.”
[Image: “Toronto – April 20: A Marijuana Smoker Blowing Off Smoke During The Annual Marijuana 420 Event At Yonge and Dundas Square On April 20 2012 In Toronto, Canada.” via Shutterstock]