Marijuana Enforcement a “Black and White” Issue
We frequently hear about how minorities are hit especially hard by the War on Drugs. Through unequal enforcement, and disparities at charging, trial, and sentencing, it seems non-whites are at an unfair advantage even before they encounter police. A new in-depth report from the ACLU of Maryland focuses specifically on the enforcement of marijuana laws, finding the state has a despicable track record marked with racial disparities.
“The Maryland War on Marijuana in Black and White” was recently published in an effort to bring attention to just how unequally the marijuana laws in this state are being applied. Using numbers from the FBI and the US Census, the ACLU found the number of people arrested for marijuana possession has increased by 34% between 2001 and 2010, hitting blacks the hardest.
They found that even though Black and Whites use marijuana at comparable rates, police in Maryland arrest Blacks at a higher rate in nearly every single county in the state. Throughout the study period (’01-’10) the disparities grew, as Black arrests increased by 5,614 while White arrests increased by only 371.
“Now is the time to end this racially disparate approach of stopping, searching, arresting and jailing people in Maryland for possession of marijuana because it not only wastes limited resources, but it hurts communities and erodes trust with law enforcement,” said Sara Love, public policy director of the ACLU of Maryland.
Though blacks only make up about 30 percent of the state population, they make up 58 percent of arrests for marijuana possession during the study years.
Maryland currently has the highest arrest rates for marijuana possession in the nation. One in every 245 people in this state are arrested for possessing pot. We also ranked seventh for the “raw number arrests” of marijuana possession.
“This report proves something we police have known for a long time: The drug war is inherently racist in its execution,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “Inequities in arrest rates affect the life opportunities of blacks and create distrust between police and the communities they serve.”
The state of Maryland spent about $106 million on enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010 alone. That astronomical price is applied every year and doesn’t even include the additional costs of the war on marijuana. While many states are moving to legalize marijuana possession or lessen penalties, it seems a long way off for us.
At least one candidate for Governor supports legalization, but it is unclear how likely Maryland is to follow with the next batch of states likely to legalize weed in the coming years.