In Georgia Blacks Are More Than 3 Times More Likely to Be Arrested For Marijuana Possession Than Whites

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) shows that African Americans in Georgia are arrested for marijuana possession at a significantly higher rate than Whites.

The report released Monday evening details marijuana possession arrest rates in the United States from 2001 to 2010, and Georgia marijuana possession laws are disproportionately enforced against Blacks. Georgia had the sixth highest arrest rate in the nation (389 per 100,000) and the sixth most total arrests for marijuana possession in 2010 (32,473), of which Blacks accounted for approximately 64 percent, the study found. Blacks were 3.69 times more likely to be arrested than whites.

“Marijuana prohibition is taking a toll on the entire country, but Georgia is among the states paying the biggest price,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Law enforcement resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes instead of arresting adults for using a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol.”

ACLU’s study found a similar trend throughout the U.S. Black people are arrested for possessing marijuana at a higher rate than white people, even though marijuana use by both races is about the same.

The analysis of federal crime data, released Tuesday, found marijuana arrest rates for blacks were 3.73 times greater than those for whites nationally in 2010. In some counties, the arrest rate was 10 to 30 times greater for blacks.

The ACLU found that the overall increase in marijuana possession arrests from 2001 to 2010 is mostly due to drastic increases in arrests of Black people.

The discrepancy in arrests was evidenced throughout the country, regardless of the size of the Black population of the location and regardless of the Black population’s income levels, the data shows.

African Americans living in counties with the highest median household incomes, $85,000 to $115,000, are two to eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.

“Marijuana prohibition laws are not only irrational, but also unfair,” Tvert said. “Discrimination against communities of color played a role in their creation and it continues to play a role in their enforcement.”

Ezekiel Edwards, lead author of the study, attributed the disparate arrest rates to racial profiling by police seeking to pad their arrest numbers with “low-level” arrests in “certain communities that they have kind of labeled as problematic.”

The report is based Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting
Program and the United States Census Bureau’s annual county population estimates. The full report is available at

The ACLU supports legalization of marijuana and regulation through taxation and licensing. It also supports eliminating criminal and civil penalties for marijuana possession. If those two options are not possible, the group supports punishment for marijuana possession with only civil penalties.


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