A new, damning report by the American Civil Liberties Union (PDF) illustrates how costly, ineffective, and racist the policing and criminalization of marijuana has become in the United States, with New York State leading the way in marijuana-related arrests.
The study analyzes how over the past ten years, marijuana arrests have come to make up over half of all drug arrests in the United States, and that in 2010 a marijuana arrest happened every thirty-seven seconds.
Even more staggering than the cost of marijuana enforcement (which cost states $3.6 billion in 2010) is the racial dynamic of marijuana policing: a Black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though blacks and whites use the drug at a similar rate.
New York and California are especially committed to the costly enforcement of marijuana laws, spending over a billion combined in 2010, while New York came in second only to Washington, D.C. in terms of arrest rates. Bronx and Kings Counties had the second and third highest numbers of marijuana possession arrests in 2010, while New York and Queens Counties came in sixth and seventh. These high numbers are most likely due to New York City's Stop & Frisk policy, which is incredibly adept at finding weed and not much else.
The study found a staggering rise in marijuana arrests nationwide over the first decade of the new century, and, alarmingly, a widening disparity between the arrest rates between whites and blacks.
The ACLU writes, "The report concludes that the War on Marijuana, like the larger War on Drugs of which it is a part, is a failure. It has needlessly ensnared hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system, had a staggeringly disproportionate impact on AfricanAmericans, and comes at a tremendous human and financial cost."
Additionally, the group goes on to recommend the immediate legalization of marijuana for persons 21 or older through a system of taxation, licensing, and regulation, and a prompt end to marijuana possession arrests.