Analysis finds racial disparity in pot arrests


Blacks in Monroe County are 6.5 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing pot, says an analysis released today by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The organization looked at marijuana arrests in counties across New York from 2001 to 2010. It found that, statewide, blacks are 4.5 times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, often in small amounts. That's above the national average.

"These gaping racial disparities in marijuana arrests exist even though government surveys show that whites use marijuana at higher rates than blacks do," says an NYCLU press release.

The analysis says that, overall, marijuana arrests in New York increased between 2001 and 2010.

"While arrest rates of whites increased slightly, black people shouldered a greater portion of the increases in marijuana arrests, with the black arrest rate increasing 26 percent over that time span," the analysis says.

And the arrests come at a cost. For one, police and court costs related to marijuana cases totaled $678.5 million in 2010, the analysis says. But the arrests also can affect eligibility for things like student aid and jobs.

Of course, the analysis's findings won't come as shock to many people who have advocated reform of the state's marijuana laws. Reform advocates have long said that minorities are disproportionately and unfairly charged for possessing small amounts of pot.

"Governor Cuomo has pledged to clarify the state’s marijuana laws to bring justice and common sense to drug enforcement in our state," NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman says in the press release. "We urge him to keep that promise."