Newsflash: The War on Drugs Is Not Colorblind

January 13th, 2014 at 8:41 am

I recently wrote about the some of the fiscal and economic implications of the legalization of marijuana, as has occurred in WA or CO.  In passing, I mentioned what I consider an important factor on the benefits side of the equation re ending criminalization of pot: the fact that the legal penalties fall disproportionately on minorities.

So I took note of this piece in the WaPo the other day, which quantified these disparities:

According to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, there were 8 million marijuana arrests in the United States from 2001 to 2010. These arrests were anything but colorblind: Eighty-eight percent were for possession, a crime for which black Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested than whites. While white and black Americans use marijuana at roughly similar rates — though whites ages 18 to 25 consistently surpass their black peers — arrest rates are nowhere near comparable. As of 2005, according to the American Bar Association, African Americans represented 14 percent of drug users (and of the population as a whole), yet accounted for 34 percent of all drug arrests and 53 percent of those sent to prison for a drug offense.

Decriminalizing pot—beyond WA and CO of course—thus has the potential to pushback against this discriminatory application of one corner of our drug laws, but that’s a small fix.  The “war on drugs” writ large is of course far from colorblind and “justice” will continue to be borne disproportionately by minorities and the least advantaged.

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