A new report from the ACLU shows that marijuana is the drug of choice for police departments nationwide—with serious consequences for Texas and our communities of color. Texas ranks second in the nation in total arrests for marijuana possession, wasting nearly $300 million in state taxpayer money on a failed “War on Drugs.” Even more troublesome: Marijuana enforcement is a vehicle for law enforcement to target communities of color.

Blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rates
Blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates, yet blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested across the nation for marijuana possession. According to the ACLU’s report, the significant increase in marijuana arrest rates over the last 10 years is largely due to the steep rise in arrests of blacks. Between 1995 and 2010, the number of marijuana arrests in this country increased by 51%.

Statewide, blacks are 2.3 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession
In 2010 blacks made up 12.2 percent of the Texas population but accounted for more than a quarter of arrests for marijuana possession.

A corridor of racial targeting
The worst-offending Texas counties for racial disparity in marijuana enforcement stretch across East Texas and center around the state’s most populous centers (Houston and Dallas). Texas is the only state with two counties appearing in the nation’s top five for racial disparity—with Van Zandt at number one and Cooke at number four.

image of the corridor of racial targeting

Counties bar chart

In these counties with largest disparitites in arrests by rate, blacks more likely to be arrested than whites.

The ACLU of Texas wrote letters to officials in the 12 counties with the worst racial disparity in marijuana-possession arrests demanding changes in law enforcement policies and practices.