In Montana, Black people are 9.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts – the widest disparity in the U.S., according to American Civil Liberties Union data compiled by the Cincinnati, Ohio-based Joslyn Law Firm. Colorado had the lowest racial disparity with Black people 1.5 times more likely to be arrested for possession.
The report uses data from 2010 to 2018.
The largest racial disparities in cannabis possession arrests were in Pickens County, Georgia, where the arrest rate of Black people was 97.3 times higher than the white arrest rate – 321 white people were arrested for marijuana possession during the period analyzed compared to 31,243 Black people. DeKalb County, Alabama was the second-highest county for racial disparities in cannabis arrests at 44.6 to 1, the report found.
Nationally, Black people are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts – this despite studies that have found Black and white people use cannabis at similar rates.
In Kentucky, Black people were arrested for possession 9.4 times more often than white people, followed by Illinois, Iowa, and West Virginia at 7.5 times and 7.3 times each, respectively. The report does not include post-legalization data from Illinois, which was the first state to legalize cannabis via the Legislature in 2019. Illinois State Police and the governor expunged more than 500,000 cannabis-related criminal records on the final day of 2020.
Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming all saw Black people arrested for cannabis possession at rates at least five times higher than white people, while Utah neared the mark at 4.9 times, the report found. Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, Maine Massachusetts, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin all saw cannabis arrest rates four-times higher among Black people and of those states only Massachusetts has legalized sales and possession for adults. Idaho was close to the mark with cannabis arrest rates 3.9 times higher for Black people than white people int the state.
Michigan arrest rates were consistent with the national average of disparities, followed by Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Nevada New Jersey, Rhode Island, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, which reached a three-times rate of disparity but fell below the 3.6% average.
Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Texas, and Washington state each saw arrest rate disparities between 2.1 and 2.9 times, while Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon saw disparate rates between 1.5 and 1.8 times. Three of those four states have legalized cannabis for adults.
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