The ACLU recently released the results of a study titled, “The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests.” The ACLU studied marijuana-related arrests from 2001 to 2010 in all 50 states and their counties. One of Racial Bias in Marijuana Arrests, Infographictheir key findings is that, “On 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” (p. 4) – regardless of where one lives, in rich or poor, rural or urban counties. According to the report, from 2001 to 2010, the ratio of arrests for marijuana possession between Black people and white people increased by nearly a third (32.7%) (p. 9).

I and other federal criminal practitioners, and many within the general public, have, for decades, understood that racial discrimination by law enforcement officers is not a thing of the past. In the last five years, much attention has been given to the racist effects of “crack” cocaine sentencing laws. Many have supposed that this is because more Blacks use crack than whites. This report, however, shows that the same racist effect exists when the rate of use of a substance is about the same between Blacks and whites.

Among the many injustices in our system of law enforcement, this one is the least obvious to those whom it does not affect. If you are white, it’s easy to miss it or ignore it; if you are Black, it’s impossible to miss it or ignore it. Many of us believe it’s not true. No one wants it to be true. But it is true. And it needs to be exposed.


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