Although opinions of marijuana have started to shift in the United States toward legalization, marijuana-related arrests exceeded the total number of arrests for violent crimes in 2015. This is according to a new report released by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch on Oct. 12, 2016.
Law enforcement arrested 574,640 individuals for possessing small amounts of marijuana in 2015, compared to the 505,681 arrests made for violent crimes, a 13 percent difference. A disproportionate number of those arrested were African-Americans.
In the 39 states where sufficient data was available, African-Americans were four times more likely than whites to be arrested for simple possession. In states like Montana, Iowa, and Vermont the disparity climbs to six to one; and in Manhattan, African-Americans were 11 times more likely to be arrested for possession.
Speaking with The New York Times, Inimai M. Chettiar, director of the Justice Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, credits the disparity to questionable police tactics.
“It is selective enforcement, and the example I like to use is that you have all sorts of drug use inside elite college dorms, but you don’t see the police busting through doors,” said Chettiar.