Thursday, June 6, 2013

Marijuana Arrests in Black and White

The ACLU recently came out with its report on differential usage and arrest rates for marijuana based on race.  The report found that both Blacks and Whites use pot at roughly the same rates, which is similar to other research on drug use.  But, while usage rates are similar, Blacks are three to four times more likely to be arrested for pot than are Whites.  Some of their other key findings include:
  • 52% of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana (mostly small amounts of pot, not drug king pins).
  • Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana.
  • Blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than are Whites.
  • The over 8 million pot arrests between 2001 and 2010 equals roughly one arrest every 37 seconds.
  • Enforcing marijuana laws cost about $3.6 billion dollars a year, but has done virtually nothing to stop use, availability or quality.

You can read the entire report here.

Now, if you were to combine this report (as well as the other scholarly research on law enforcement and arrests) with research on the court system (ability to afford bail and quality legal counsel) and sentencing policies (mandatory minimums, school zone drug laws, truth in sentencing laws, get tough policies, etc.) you start to see an entire criminal justice system that discriminates against people of color and the poor; poor Blacks in particular.  And, if you study the history of race and racism in the US, you will come to see present day drug laws and enforcement practices as a contemporary version of a long history of racial control that goes back to European expansionism, where the social categories of race that we continue to use today were first created.

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