Marijuana

How Racist Is Your State's War on Weed? Compare!

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Washington Area Spark/Flickr

A new interactive website from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) highlights how many lives are derailed and billions of dollars wasted fighting a racially biased war on drugs in America.

The site, called The Uncovery, offers state-by-state statistics on U.S. marijuana arrests, emphasizing racial disparities and the cost of enforcing drug laws. 

The stats are based on data from the ACLU's "War on Marijuana" report. For the U.S. overall, someone is arrested for marijuana every 0.01 hours and this person is 3.73 times more likely to be black than white. The site notes that the U.S. spent more than $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana laws in 2010 and that 88 percent of marijuana arrests are for possession (in New York and Texas, that figure is 97 percent). The Uncovery also breaks down marijuana arrest and spending stats by state. Let's take a look. 

The 10 states spending the most on marijuana law enforcement: 

1. New York: $678,450,560
2. California: $490,966,080
3. Texas: $251,648,800
4. Florida: $228,635,840
5. Illinois: $221,431,776
6. New Jersey: $127,342,512
7. Georgia: $121,898,152
8. Ohio: $120,148,064
9. Maryland: $106,702,784
10. Pennsylvania: $100,748,528

Staggering, no? And the disparities in black-to-white arrest ratios are equally horrifying. 

The 10 worst states for racially biased marijuana arrests: 

In ___, a black person is ___ times more likely to be arrested than a white person for having marijuana. 

1. Iowa—8.33
2. D.C.—8.05
3. Minnesota—7.81
4. Illinois—7.56
5. Wisconsin—5.98
6. Kentucky—5.95
7. Pennsylvania—5.19
8. South Dakota—4.78
9. Nebraska—4.65
10. New York—4.52 

States with the smallest racial disparities in marijuana arrests were Hawaii (where blacks were only 0.99 times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana), Alaska (1.6 times more likely), New Mexico (1.86), Oregon (2.08), and Maine (2.13). All five of these states have very small African American populations overall.