Why Are Black People Nearly 4 Times as Likely to Be Arrested for Weed?

The ACLU has a new tool to get people talking about this and other striking racial disparities in the war on marijuana. 

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Supporters of legalized marijuana light up at exactly 4:20 p.m. in Civic Center Park April 20, 2012, in Denver. 

Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Millions of people each year are arrested for marijuana possession, but a black person is 3.73 times as likely as a white person to be arrested for the same offense. That, says the American Civil Liberties Union, is a form of racial injustice.

So, this week, the organization launched The Uncovery, an advocacy tool that lets users take their own local facts (in Pennsylvania, for example, the racial disparity is even more extreme, with black people 5.19 times as likely as whites to be arrested) and turn them into clear graphic messages like the ones below.

They’re visual representations of what the ACLU calls “The war on marijuana in black and white.”

1. This first statistic isn’t too surprising.

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Courtesy of the ACLU

2. But every 37 seconds? Wow.

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Courtesy of the ACLU

3. This is the important part. Its not that black people use more marijuana than white people ...

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Courtesy of the ACLU

4. … Its just that the consequences are worse when they do.

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Courtesy of the ACLU

5. In some parts of the country, the difference is even more dramatic.

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Courtesy of the ACLU

6. And, according to the ACLU, these disparities have costs—in ruined lives and actual dollars.

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Courtesy of the ACLU


Jenée Desmond-Harris is
The Root’s senior staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.