Proof That the War on Marijuana Is Racist

By McCarton Ackerman 06/04/13

New statistics from the ACLU show how pot arrests disproportionately target African Americans across all 50 states.

Truth in numbers? Photo via

Racial bias in US drug laws has now been documented on a huge scale. A new study from the American Civil Liberties Union, which tracked marijuana arrests by race and county in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, shows that while black and white Americans use marijuana at the same rate, black people were four times more likely to be arrested than white people. In Washington DC, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, blacks were 7.5 to 8.5 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. And out of the eight million total arrests for marijuana between 2001-2010, the overwhelming majority were for small-scale possession. "In the past 75 years we have seen mounting evidence of the benign nature of the marijuana plant, and its tremendous potential for medical development," said Amanda Reiman, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, in 2012. "But the rampant misinformation about the effects of marijuana USE is dwarfed by the lifetime of suffering that a marijuana conviction can bring." Despite Barack Obama's first term in office being marked by an economic recession and soaring deficit, states increased their spending on the "War on Marijuana" by more than 30% from the previous decade by racking up an estimated $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws. The end result was more arrests for marijuana than all violent crimes combined. A recent report by the NY Public Advocate's office showed that NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy had black people compromise 84% of all its stops, yet those white people who were stopped were more likely to be in possession of drugs or weapons than any other ethnicity.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.