Media Contact

Imelda Mejia, ACLU of Texas, 346-299-6803, media@aclutx.org

April 19, 2020

HOUSTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today released a new report that showed Black people are 2.6 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in Texas. While Blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly equal rates, the ACLU’s report, A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform, shows the racial disparity that exists with arrests related to the possession of marijuana.

The report looks at marijuana possession arrests from 2010 to 2018 and updates the 2013 report, The War on Marijuana in Black and White. While marijuana policy has changed nationally in the last decade, much has remained unchanged in Texas. In fact, the rate of Black arrests compared to white arrests for marijuana possession increased since 2010.

“The facts are clear – Black people are overwhelmingly targeted and punished under our outdated marijuana laws, while there is similar usage among all races,” said Terri Burke, executive director for the ACLU of Texas. “Targeting any Texans for marijuana possession is not a good use of our tax dollars or time. Residents all over Texas are ready for a change in our laws, and as we move closer to a legislative year, state representatives need to listen to their constituents.”

According to the report, arrests for the possession of marijuana made up 44% of all drug related arrests in the state in 2018. The top five counties in Texas with the largest racial disparities where Black people were more likely to get arrested were concentrated mostly in the east and northeastern parts of the state. Three of these countries appeared simultaneously in both reports, including, Van Zandt, Cooke, and Hopkins.

In the year 2018 alone, Texas had the highest total number of marijuana possession arrests in the country, with around 70,000. The numbers have slightly decreased from 2010, but Texas still ranks 41st in the nation for the largest racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests.

As the report revealed law enforcement makes thousands of arrests for marijuana possession on a yearly basis. Since 2010, these arrests are still more common among Black people than white people, even though there are similar usage rates.

Sources for the ACLU report include the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data and the U.S. Census Data.