Society

ACLU Maryland Report Shows Blacks Disproportionately Targeted For Marijuana Possession Throughout The State

| by Will Hagle

Despite a general nation-wide attitude shift towards the way marijuana possession is addressed criminally — as more states pass medical marijuana laws and/or laws allowing recreational marijuana use — a new report demonstrates that arrests for marijuana possession in Maryland have increased by 34 percent throughout the past ten years. 

The report, entitled “The Maryland War On Marijuana In Black And White,” was released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland using official data from the FBI and the U.S. Census. The Maryland-specific report is part of a series of larger reports from the ALCU that aim to determine accurate data as to which races are being targeted in the war on drugs, using a county-by-county analysis.

Unsurprisingly, the data found that black residents in Maryland are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white residents, despite relatively equal use of the substance by both races. According to the Baltimore News Journal, “Maryland spent approximately $106 million enforcing marijuana possession in 2010 alone.” 

These numbers are strikingly high, especially considering the perceived increasingly lax policy towards the relatively non-harmful drug. 

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Sara Love, Public Policy Director of the ACLU of Maryland, informed the Baltimore News Journal that her organization supports legally taxing and regulating marijuana throughout the state, and that they would use this new report as information to further their cause during next year’s election cycles. 

“Now is the time to end this racially disparate approach of stopping, searching, arresting and jailing people in Maryland for possession of marijuana because it not only wastes limited resources, but it hurts communities and erodes trust with law enforcement. With this Maryland report, the ACLU of Maryland will be strongly advocating for reform in the 2014 legislative session,” Love said. 

The issue of unlawfully targeting black individuals for nonviolent crimes such as drug possession has been brought to light in other areas aside from Maryland. The mayor-elect of New York City, Bill de Blasio, gained early support largely due to his resistance to the city’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy, which numerous studies found disproportionately targeted minorities.