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African Americans more likely to face arrests for marijuana

According to recently released federal data, African Americans were more than four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010. This disparity is particularly disturbing because research indicates that whites and blacks use the drug at similar rates.

Over the past couple years, many states have seen a change in attitude regarding the use of marijuana. In fact, several states have even decriminalized the drug. Nevertheless, arrests for marijuana possession and other related crimes remained steady from 2010 to 2011 nationwide.

The recent federal report was compiled from data collected from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study is significant because it provides a comprehensive analysis of arrests for marijuana crimes broken down by county and race. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the results are clear: in nearly every single county in the country, African Americans are more likely to be arrested for marijuana crimes than whites.

Surprisingly, the arrest rate for marijuana possession has been about five percent higher during the Obama administration than during the George W. Bush administration. This comes at a time when the rate of marijuana use seems to be steadily rising: surveys indicate that seven percent of people in the U.S. admitted to using marijuana within the past 30 days in 2011, compared to six percent in 2002.

As attitudes about marijuana use change and the facts about the costs of enforcing drug laws – both social and economic – become clear, it is only a matter of time before lawmakers and law enforcement agencies must alter their approach.

Source: New York Times, "Blacks Are Singled Out for Marijuana Arrests, Federal Data Suggests," Ian Urbina, June 3, 2013

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