Declaring “It’s time to end the war on marijuana,” the American Civil Liberties Union reported Tuesday that black Americans were 3.7 times likelier than white Americans to be arrested for pot possession in 2010 despite similar rates of use.
“Though there were pronounced racial disparities in marijuana arrests 10 years ago, disparities have increased in 38 of 50 states and the District of Columbia,” the ACLU concluded in its report, “The War on Marijuana in Black and White.”
In Indiana, black people were 3.4 times likelier than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, a rate equal to or slightly lower than recent years, according to the report. For every 100,000 in population, 591 black individuals were arrested for marijuana possession in Indiana compared with 174 white people arrested. Total Indiana possession arrests declined approximately 12 percent in 2010 compared with 2009, according to the data.
Elkhart County has the highest racial disparity in the state, with black people arrested 7 times more frequently than white people for marijuana possession. Among the state’s largest counties, the report says black people were arrested more often than white people at these rates: Allen, 6.4 times; Hamilton, 5.5; Marion, 4.7; St. Joseph, 4.2; Lake, 2.0.
The report produced the following data about Indiana marijuana possession arrests in 2010:
- Those arrests constituted 44 percent of all drug arrests, compared with the national average of about 50 percent.
- In 30 Indiana counties, black people were arrested at a rate higher than the national average.
- Indiana spent almost $38.5 million enforcing marijuana possession laws. The ACLU estimates all states spent a combined $3.6 billion.
“ACLU recommends that states legalize marijuana possession and use for persons 21 or older through a system of taxation, licensing and regulation, like alcohol,” the national organization said in releasing the report. “If legalization is not possible, the ACLU recommends depenalizing marijuana use and possession by removing all related civil and criminal penalties for such authorized activities for persons 21 or older, or, if depenalization is unobtainable, decriminalizing use and possession for adults and youth by classifying such activities as civil offenses.”
A measure that would have reduced the penalties for marijuana possession was introduced in the Indiana General Assembly this year but didn’t receive a committee vote. Penalties for marijuana possession are revised in the pending criminal code revision adopted by the Legislature this year.