Black People in Ocean State 3.3 Times More Likely to be Arrested for Pot Possession than Whites

Posted: Apr, 20, 2020

Today the ACLU released a report showing that Black people in Rhode Island are 3.3 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession despite comparable marijuana usage rates among the two racial groups. Similar arrest disparities were documented in a 2013 report issued by the ACLU, but they have gotten worse, not better, over the past decade. The report also shows that the racial disparities are even more pronounced, and way above the national average, outside Providence County. The findings of the new research are especially disturbing given Rhode Island’s marijuana reform over the last decade in decriminalizing arrests for possession of small amounts of the drug.

The report issued by the National ACLU, A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform, examined nationwide marijuana arrests. The report shows that Rhode Island’s racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests are only slightly better than the nationwide average, where Black arrests are 3.64 times more likely than for whites.

Key findings of the new report include:

Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of RI, said today: “Rhode Island enforcement of marijuana laws continues to disproportionately target Black communities and entangles them in the criminal legal system at a tremendous social and economic cost. The disparate arrest rates between Blacks and whites, particularly in those areas of the state with small African-American populations, remain shocking and indefensible. Worse, this is happening even as the state gives serious consideration to the drug’s legalization.”

The National ACLU report provides a series of recommendations for state and local officials to address this problem. Among the recommendations that the ACLU of Rhode Island says must be considered here:

The full report is available here.
A summary of Rhode Island data is available here.