Drug Policy Press Release

06.04.13

New Report Shows African Americans Use Marijuana at a Rate Similar to Whites, But Are Four Times More Likely to be Arrested

CLEVELAND, OH – Despite similar usage rates, African Americans in Ohio were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in 2010, according to a new report released today by the ACLU. The report, Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests, is the first ever to examine state and county marijuana arrest rates nationally by race.

“The War on Marijuana has disproportionately been a war on people of color,” says Ezekiel Edwards, Director of the Criminal Law Reform Project at the ACLU and one of the primary authors of the report. “State and local governments have aggressively enforced marijuana laws selectively against Black people and communities, needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system at tremendous human and financial cost.”

Ohio is among the states with the most marijuana possession arrests and Cuyahoga County ranks among the counties with the highest numbers of African American arrests for marijuana possession in the nation. In Allen County, African Americans were 13 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites and large disparities were also found in Columbiana, Stark, Scioto, Portage and Summit counties.

Statewide, marijuana possession arrests accounted for 48 percent of all drug arrests in 2010 and cost Ohio over $120 million. Nationally, there was one marijuana arrest every 37 seconds in 2010 and an African American was over 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person.

These racial disparities were found in all regions of the U.S., regardless of county population or whether African Americans make up a small or a large percentage of that population. The disparity existed regardless of county household income levels. In fact, greater disparity was found in affluent and middle income counties.

“The fundamental disparity highlighted in this report has done immeasurable damage to communities of color while failing to stop or even slow the use of marijuana,” said ACLU of Oho Policy Director Shakyra Diaz. “These policies are time-consuming, costly, racially biased and they don’t work. It’s time for Ohio to begin making aggressive plans for marijuana decriminalization.”

To download the ACLU report, visit: www.aclu.org/marijuana.

To download Ohio specific information, visit: www.acluohio.org/Marijuana.