In Pa., African Americans five times more likely to be arrested for pot possession

    If you’re arrested for marijuana possession in Pennsylvania, you’re 5.19 times more likely to be African American that white. In New Jersey, it’s almost three times more likely on average.

     

    In a new report, the American Civil Liberties Union says that arrests for marijuana possession around the country are on the rise — as are racial disparities among those arrested in about 40 states.

    “The scope of this is startling, even for someone like me who’s been in the criminal justice system for years,” says Alexander Shalom, Policy Counsel at the ACLU of New Jersey. 

    He says the rates of marijuana use among whites and African Americans are very similar.

    “The fact that there were counties in New Jersey and, in fact, Pennsylvania, throughout the entire state, where the disproportionality was five times, that you were five times more likely [to be arrested], those are really horrifying numbers,” Shalom said.

    In Philadelphia, 82 percent of the suspects arrested for marijuana possession are African Americans.

    Philadelphia police and the Associations of Police Chiefs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey did not return requests for comment on the report’s findings.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.