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Racism Alleged in Maryland Drug Enforcement

Two items hit the news recently, that, taken in combination, give Maryland citizens pause to consider. The first was the announcement of a report from the ACLU that Maryland ranked fourth, nationwide, for the number of arrests for marijuana possession. The second was that we seem to be arresting more blacks than whites for the crime, even though the two groups use marijuana in about equal amounts.

The ACLU report estimates that marijuana enforcement in our state exceeds a hundred million dollars in 2010 on interdicting, prosecution, incarceration and monitoring those involved with marijuana, with Worcester County passing other counties across the nation, with an arrest rate for the drug at 2,133 for every 100,000 residents. That means, if you lived in Worcester County and knew 50 of your neighbors, the odds are that one of those neighbors would have been arrested for marijuana possession in 2010.

Arrests for marijuana possession also reveal a racial bias. At almost three times the likelihood of getting arrested, blacks in Maryland are being targeted. If the use of weed is about the same, how else to explain the higher arrest rate (2.9 times higher), except based on skin color?

The case is brought home by statistics out of Baltimore. With the fifth highest number of arrests by county in our state, Baltimore residents had nearly 92 percent arrested who were black. This is after arrests of whites for marijuana possession fell more than 20 percent subsequent to a zero-tolerance policy, and went up 20 percent in the same period for blacks.

Essential to a charge of racism or discrimination is the usage level between black Americans and whites. According the ACLU, marijuana crosses racial boundaries and there is no significant difference in the percentage who use the drug.

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