Pot Busts Are Racially Biased in Every US County

Black people 8 times as likely to be arrested in some states

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 4, 2013 3:00 AM CDT | Updated Jun 4, 2013 7:59 AM CDT

(Newser) – Police forces all across America are singling out black people for marijuana arrests, according to an ACLU study using arrest data from all 50 states. Black people use marijuana at the same rate as white people, the study found, but they are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for possession nationwide, and around eight times as likely in states including Minnesota and Iowa, the New York Times reports. Marijuana busts still make up around half of all drug arrests, despite the loosening of laws in many states.

"We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner," says the director of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project. The study—which notes that arrests for possession of even tiny amounts of the drug can devastate people's lives—blames some of the disparity in arrests on federal programs that tie funding to arrest numbers, leading police departments to focus on poorer neighborhoods to rack up large numbers of arrests for low-level offenses.

FILE - In this June 24, 2008 file photo a regular user of soft drugs demonstrates how to smoke a marijuana joint in a coffee shop in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Dutch coffee shops owners went to court Wednesday...   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
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It’s pretty clear that law enforcement practices are not keeping pace with public opinion and state policies. - Mona Lynch, a professor of criminology
at the University of California, Santa Cruz

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