War on Marijuana Report Released by the ACLU

The War on Marijuana in Black and White, a report published by the American Civil Liberties Union in June 2013, looks at marijuana possession arrest rates and racial disparities among these arrests, as well as the costs of enforcement for all state and counties from 2001 to 2010.  

Using FBI Uniform Crime Reporting as well as Census data, the report finds that marijuana possession accounts for 88% of all marijuana arrests and 46% of all drug arrests in the US. Since 1990 there has been a 52% increase in the number of people in state prisons for drug offenses, contributing to the shocking statistic that the United States accounts for 25% of the world's prison population despite making up only 5% of the world population.  

States spent a combined $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010.  California and New York spent $1 billion of this, while the next highest states, Texas, Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia, and Ohio, spent another $1 billion all together.  19 other states spent over $30 million each.  However, despite these efforts the US continues to be the world's largest consumer of illegal drugs, and marijuana use has been increasing.  In 2002, 6.2% of the population admitted to having used marijuana in the past month, increasing to 7.0% by 2010.  This number is even higher among young people:  30.4% of people aged 18 to 25 admitted to using marijuana within the last month between 2009 and 2010.

In terms of racial disparities, the report notes that although marijuana use is similiar among whites and blacks, blacks are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, regardless of the size of the population or regional location. They are 3.73 times more likely on average to be arrested for possession than white peopple, and this increases to more than eight times more likely in some states and even 30 times more likely in some counties.  The states or regions with the largest racial disparities among arrests are Iowa, D.C., Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.  

Law enforcement agencies have increasingly prioritized enforcement of marijuana laws, while 52.8% of violent crimes and 81.7% of property crimes have gone unsolved across the nation. The ACLU report recommends in conclusion that marijuana be legalized or at least depenalized for people over the age of 21.  

State-by-State Reports: