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ACLU: Blacks More Likely to Be Arrested for Marijuana Posession in Fairfax

The disparity exists despite comparable usage rates, according to report released this week.

Blacks in Fairfax County are 3.1 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to whites, according to a report released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The report also indicates that black people are 7.8 times more likely to be arrested over whites in neighboring Arlington County, and 3 times more likely to be arrested in Loudoun County.

The disparity exists despite comparable usage rates, according to the ACLU.

"The war on marijuana has disproportionately been a war on people of color," Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project and one of the primary authors of the report, stated in a press release. “State and local governments have aggressively enforced marijuana laws selectively against black people and communities.”

The ACLU report is the first to examine marijuana possession arrest rates by race for all 50 states and DC. It looked at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program and the U.S. Census data between 2001 and 2010.

Between 2001 and 2010, there were more than 8 million pot arrests in the United States, more than half of all drug arrests. The ACLU also found that though blacks and whites tend to use marijuana at similar rates, in 2010 a black person was 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person.

A non-scientific poll on Fairfax County Patch sites on Sunday indicated that 77 percent of readers (or 99 of 128 poll-takers), support marijuana legalization in Virginia.

A sample of reader comments from Sunday’s poll:

Francis Buxton

Should we "legalize" cannabis? That's not really the question. The question is should we continue the failed, immoral, and destructive policy of prohibition. Should we should continue to use the violence of the state in a futile attempt to control what individuals choose to put into their own bodies? Should we continue to punish people for making the rational, safer choice to enjoy non-toxic cannabis rather than deadly, addictive, and violence-promoting alcohol? Should we continue to squander billions of dollars we don't have (and forgo billions more in lost tax revenue) on an unwinnable and increasingly-unpopular war that empowers and enriches organized crime, fuels black market violence, promotes official corruption, undermines respect for the law, turns millions of ordinary Americans into criminals, and drives a huge wedge between police and the communities they're supposed to "serve and protect"? Should we continue to send men with guns to arrest our fellow citizens and lock them in cages for the "crime" of possessing a plant or engaging in consensual exchanges for its sale?

Natassia Smith

No, Virginia should not legalize it...unless and until business owners and employers have their God-given inherent right to discriminate in hiring and firing.

Until employers have their right to hire and fire whoever they want, then why add to their problems? The problem with marijuana is that it remains in the body for a long time even if one hasn't smoked or ingested any recently, and when on-the-job accidents happen like at construction companies, for example, those employees involved are required to have a drug test. Well, lets say it comes back positive for marijuana. How is the employer to know if the employee has been using while on the job or simply after work? Employers must have the right to deny employment to users of marijuana even if marijuana use is legal.

Do you think there is a disparity in who is arrested for marijuana possession?

Patch editor Shaun Courtney contributed to this report.

Benjita June 05, 2013 at 09:36 PM
This is news? I'm not sure this isn't more of a economic rather than racial issue but the police treat South County and other low income areas of the County as a police state. Heads would roll if residents of McLean and Great Falls were treated this way.
Chris Anderson June 05, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Are you suggesting that there should be a greater police presence where the crime isn't?
James Naismith June 06, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Does anyone ever read past the press release or executive summaries? Or seek an independent review of these so-called studies? Example from the report (page 21): Use of mj in past year, ages 18-25: 2010, 14% of blacks, 12% of whites 2001, 9% of blacks, 10% of whites Of course, the report only talks in percentages, not in specifics about the numbers actually surveyed. Total number of drug and mj arrests have actually declined since 2007 (page 37). Best way to reduce arrests for possession: Don't Possess.
Chris Anderson June 06, 2013 at 01:04 PM
one might expect the author of the article to provide this information, unless of course the intent from the outset was to be provocative instead of informative. The article is useless.
Jennifer van der Kleut June 06, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Hi everyone - I'm not the author of the article, but it is my understanding that our article was meant to highlight a few of the bigger claims in the ACLU's report. If you click on the word "report" in the first paragraph, it links to the full report by the ACLU, which includes many more claims, a lot more data, and all their sources. Hope that helps. We were not aiming to reprint their report in its entirety (it's way too long for that).

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