Tue June 4, 2013
Report: Ky. African-Americans Six Times Likelier to be Arrested for Marijuana Possession
In a disparity topped by only four other states and the District of Columbia, Kentucky African-Americans are six-times likelier to be arrested for marijuana possession than Caucasians, said a new study from the American Civil Liberties Union.
But African-Americans are only slightly more likely than Caucasians to use marijuana—14 percent to 11.6 percent, the study said.
In Jefferson County, African-Americans were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession—close to the national average of 3.7 times more likely.
Louisville Metro Police officials are reviewing the study, spokeswoman Carey Klain said. LMPD policy "strictly" prohibits racial profiling.
Two Kentucky counties were in the Top 20 for racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests.
- In Nelson County (Bardstown), African-Americans were 32.1 times more likely to be arrested
- In Kenton County (near Cincinnati), African-Americans 10 times more likely to be arrested
Drug arrests can cause life-long issues for people, harming (for example) their ability to gain employment or obtain financial aid for school, the study notes.
The disparity in arrests has "grown significantly worse" in the past 10 years, says the ACLU in a news release. The study, titled "Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests." is garnered from FBI statistics and U.S. Census data from 2010.
Kentucky spends $19.5 million on marijuana drug enforcement in 2010.
The ACLU is calling for legalized, regulated marijuana for Americans 21 and older; in lieu of that, the advocacy group wants drastic reform of marijuana laws.
"Everyone cares about public safety and the ACLU is certainly not condoning marijuana use—and drug treatment and drug abuse are serious issues. But the way this country has approached them in the last 40 years hasn't worked," said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project and an author of the study.
"It hasn't worked in terms of eradicating drugs and it's given us a prison population and people with criminal records who shouldn't have it, who then can't get jobs, can't get federal student financial aid and I think we have to take a new approach. So aside from being unfair, it's just not smart."
Update: A possible reason for Louisville's disparity may be a greater concentration of officers in western Louisville, said Elizabeth Jones, who previously criticized racial disparities in arrests in the city.
"If police are concentrating on a particular area, you'll see more arrests," Jones said.
More engagement and dialog between police and the community could help improve the numbers, she said.
Read the study below:
(Image via Shutterstock)