Black people are arrested for possessing marijuana at a higher rate than white people, even though marijuana use by both races is about the same, the American Civil Liberties Union reports in a new study.
The ACLU’s analysis of federal crime data, released Tuesday, found marijuana arrest rates for black people were 3.73 times greater than those for white people nationally in 2010. In some counties, the arrest rate was 10 to 30 times greater for blacks. In two Alabama counties, 100 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession were black, the ACLU said.
About 14 percent of black people and 12 percent of white people reported in 2010 that they had used the drug during the previous year, according to data that the ACLU obtained from the National Drug Health Survey, a Health and Human Services publication. Among younger people age 18-25, use was greater among whites.
An overall increase in marijuana-possession arrests from 2001 to 2010 is attributable largely to drastic increases in arrests of black people, the ACLU said.
Blacks were arrested at a rate of 537 per 100,000 people nationally in 2001. In 2010, their arrest rate rose to 716 per 100,000. The 2001 number for white people was 191 per 100,00 and rose to 192 per 100,000 in 2010, the ACLU said. Despite the disparate rates, far more whites were arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, 460,808 compared with blacks, 286,117.
Ezekiel Edwards, lead author of the ACLU study, attributed the disparate arrest rates to racial profiling by police seeking to pad their arrest numbers with “low-level” arrests in “certain communities that they have kind of labeled as problematic.”