Though whites and African-Americans reportedly use marijuana at similar rates, nationally, law enforcement officers are about 4 times more likely to arrest African-Americans. The ACLU report, which revealed this information, also found certain counties in Texas have disproportionate arrest records that are among the worst in the US. For example, officers in Van Zandt County are about 34 times more likely to arrest African-Americans for marijuana possession compared to the officers’ chances of arresting whites for possession. Numerous other Texas counties also arrest African-Americans for possession at rates ranging from 5 times higher to 20 times higher than arrests of whites for possession. In response to the ACLU report’s findings as they relate to Texas, ACLU executive director Terri Burke said “This data is clear evidence that police target blacks for marijuana use. And nowhere in Texas is this practice as prevalent as in a corridor stretching from Houston, up through East Texas, into the Dallas-Fort Worth area.” Shattering the notion that such disparate possession arrests are limited to Texas’ rural areas, the ACLU report revealed that Harris County ranks fourth in the US for the number of African-Americans arrested for possession.
Africans-Americans represent roughly 12% percent of the Texas population, but were targeted in over 25% of possession arrests in Texas as a whole. While this percentage (showing African-Americans are 2.3 times more likely to be arrested compared to whites) indicates disproportionate possession arrest rates of minorities in Texas is lower than the national average, understanding arrest reporting methods could explain further. Texas’ arrest reporting method does not count Hispanics separately from whites. The ACLU suspects the possession arrests of Hispanics is also disproportionality higher than whites, but cannot accurately analyze the data due to the reporting method. The ACLU further suspects, if the possession arrest records of whites alone could be analyzed, then the disparity between possession arrests of whites and minorities would be even worse than the ACLU report currently indicates.
Besides revealing racial inequality in law enforcement targeting in Texas, the ACLU report also informed readers on Texas’ wasteful policy of fighting the war on weed. The ACLU report showed that Texas has the second-highest number of possession arrests in the US. The ACLU report also discovered that possession arrests in Texas represent more than half of all drug arrests. This figure places Texas among the top states that waste the most resources and arrest the most people to enforce dubious marijuana policies. What is most striking about the report is that four decades of marijuana prohibition has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1 trillion. In 2010 alone, the enforcement of prohibition cost the U.S. about $3.6 billion. In that same year, Texas’ marijuana law enforcement cost Texas taxpayers about $126 million. Furthermore, in 2010, judicial and correctional costs related to marijuana law enforcement totaled $85 million and $40 million respectfully. Because marijuana prohibition has caused racially biased arrests and monumental wastes in government resources, the ALCU report concludes that the legalization of marijuana is the best way to combat the devastating effects of marijuana prohibition.