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Drop in arrests of blacks for pot possession, but rate still higher than for whites

Ben Harten

The arrest of African Americans for possession of marijuana in Massachusetts declined substantially in 2010 from two years earlier, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) study. However, the arrest rate was still substantially higher than that for whites. Blacks were 3.8 times more likely than whites to be arrested, roughly the national disparity level.

The national study of the problem by the ACLU found that the arrest rate for blacks in Massachusetts in 2008 was 403 per 100,000, compared with only 118 for whites. But that rate dropped to 61 per 100,000 for blacks in 2010 compared with only 16 per 100,000 for whites.

The ACLU study reported that there were 100,000 more arrests for marijuana possession in 2010 than there were in 2001 across the nation. Massachusetts law enforcement was moving the other way. In an initiative petition in the November 2012 presidential election, citizens voted to decriminalize marijuana use for medical reasons. There is also no civil penalty for such authorized uses.

Even with a shift in the public’s attitude toward the use of marijuana, there is no change in the policy of law enforcement arresting and prosecuting African Americans disproportionately