ACLU: Marijuana arrests show discrepancies by race

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Another recent report by the ACLU highlights the disparity in arrests for a drug that is the subject of much debate right now in Florida and across the country: marijuana.

The ACLU study is being called the first study of its kind. It examines marijuana arrests nationwide and breaks it down based on race. And the results show major discrepancies.

"The study shows a black person is four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though the use rates are about the same,” says attorney Andrea Mogensen.

According to the ACLU, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. There were 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010. 88% of those were for possession, and in many cases for having small amounts of the drug.

And most of those cases were for those in the black community. "The study clearly shows that there is a racially dispositional effect on black community members with the regard with the enforcement of marijuana possession laws."

The ACLU collected data from all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. They say the information shows several states -- including Florida -- see the greatest amount of racial disparity. "There must be some type of racial profiling going on, because the black community and the white community are using marijuana in the same…and black people are four times more likely to have liberty intrusions."

Mogensen says those intrusions could be that blacks are stopped and searched more often. But she says the bigger issue at hand is the consequence of the arrest, which in many cases results in lengthy jail times -- in some cases up to 30 years in prison.

“Prison is one of the most expensive places to house people because of the security that's required. It’s just not a good use of tax dollars, especially in the time of budget cuts. If someone who has $10 amount of marijuana and gets 2 years, the price to the community is enormous and the price to that individual is ridiculous.”