Racial disparity is playing out openly in New Jersey, with blacks more likely to face arrests than their white counterparts when it comes to marijuana possession. According to a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union, the practice has intensified in the past several years.
3.45 times more likely to be arrested
A section of the report reveals that blacks in New Jersey are 3.45 times more likely to face arrest for marijuana possession compared to their white counterparts, despite similar usage rates. The rate of arrest for black New Jerseyans surged since 2017 when the ACLU issued its last major examination of racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests.
Previously, the arrest rate was relatively lower. In 2013, for example, blacks in possession of marijuana were three times more likely to be arrested than white offenders. According to the New Jersey-specific data, 15 counties in the state registered a higher rate of racial disparity than the national average.
Following the revelations of the report, the American Civil Liberties Union opines that marijuana legalization in New Jersey could be the solution to the increasing rate of racial disparities, especially when it comes to marijuana arrests. Later this year, New Jersey citizens will go to the polls on November 3 to decide on whether to amend the law to allow adult-use of cannabis for persons aged 21 years and above.
Commenting about the report, ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha said:
This report confirms what we’ve known to be true: even as the unjust racial disparity in marijuana arrests has become common knowledge, including among law enforcement, the problem has only grown worse. Knowledge of the disparities cannot eradicate them. Only through legalization with a foundation of racial and social justice can we begin to right this wrong.
Fight for legalization
In the U.S., New Jersey is among the most notorious jurisdictions for arresting black people for possessing marijuana. In 2018, the state ranked 11 in the entire country and 8 in marijuana arrests per 100,000 people.
The staggering human rights crisis that COVID-19 has created in our prisons and jails paints a stark portrait of what’s at stake when we arrest people for using a substance that the majority of New Jerseyans believe should be legal. We need New Jersey voters to approve legalization, and we the legislation that enacts it to put racial and social justice front and center, Sinha stated.
The ACLU is pushing for cannabis legalization in New Jersey, as much as it wants criminal records expunged for victims charged with marijuana-related crimes. The organization believes that legalizing recreational cannabis is the most effective way to control the surging rates of racial disparities in cannabis arrests.