From a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, they found that Black Americans were nearly four (3.73, to be precise) times as likely as white to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010. Some states were even higher than the average. These states were Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. The ACLU reports that now over half of all drug arrests in the United States are for having marijuana. Of the over 8 million marijuana arrests from 2001-2010, 88% were simply for possession. The ACLU has found that enforcing marijuana laws costs about $3.6 billion/year. This is actually a 30 percent increase from 10 years earlier. During this same time, we have seen states face budget shortfalls and have to cut vital services. During the same period, arrests for most other types of crimes steadily dropped.
One solution that the ACLU argues for, is going away from grants, such as the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, that are based on arrest numbers in the performance measures. Law enforcement agencies rely on grants like this to secure necessary funding to keep streets, cities, and states safe. Instead the funding is secured by artificially inflating the numbers. If you are a police department, one way to increase drug arrest statistics is to concentrate on minority or poorer neighborhoods and focusing on low-level offenses.
Another solution that the ACLU argues for, in other reports, is a harm reduction method taken by law enforcement. If you’re not familiar with harm reduction, you can look at this website to get some of the information, that you might find interesting. I have argued in other places, that I believe in harm reduction as an effective strategy to help combat drug problems.