Achieving Racial Justice

Our Marijuana Laws Disproportionately Affect Black New Jerseyans

New Jersey is making more arrests than ever before: nearly 32,000 arrests per year. But our marijuana laws are not enforced equally in all communities. Despite evidence that Blacks and whites use marijuana at about the same rate, Blacks are arrested at a rate three times higher than whites.

The debilitating costs of a small marijuana possession conviction become even more problematic when they disproportionately impact communities of color. These potential consequences are made worse by the stigma and humiliation that go with an arrest, the additional financial burden of bail and legal costs, and the hours lost in school or work time.

By eliminating these arrests, taxing and regulating marijuana will strike a blow to the harms of racial disparities in our broken criminal justice system.

The ACLU of New Jersey’s report, Unequal & Unfair: NJ’s War on Marijuana Users, provides a comprehensive outline of the way in which racially disparate punishments for marijuana possession contribute to a broken system of marijuana prohibition. With data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program and the United States Census, the report identifies an overall increase in the number of arrests for marijuana possession from 2000 and 2013, and with it, a sharp increase in racial disparities in New Jersey marijuana arrests. The report breaks down arrest data by municipality, county, and legislative district.

The report also offers a key recommendation to end New Jersey’s failing approach to marijuana and its relation to the criminal justice system: namely, it supports creating a system for legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults in New Jersey.

Click here to read the full report.

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