NJ is arresting more people for marijuana than ever, ACLU report finds

TRENTON — If you lined up every person who had been arrested on marijuana charges in the Garden State since 2000, according to a new report from the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, they would stretch the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike — and into Maryland.

The advocacy group found marijuana arrests in the state have climbed steadily in recent years, disproportionately targeting black New Jerseyans.

The report, published Thursday, determined black residents were three times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested on marijuana charges despite no difference in the rate of marijuana use between the two groups.

The ACLU says the racial disparity is likely far higher because state and federal reporting on crime statistics lump Hispanic suspects in with white ones.

Trade group forms to legalize pot 

Dianna Houenou, the group’s police counsel, called the issue a “civil rights crisis.”

“Well over half of all Americans support legalization, but more people are arrested for marijuana possession in our state than ever before,” she said. “The racial disparity in these arrests has only grown.”

The report, which analyzed FBI Uniform Crime Report and U.S. Census data from 2000 to 2013, comes as state lawmakers are making a push to legalize marijuana in New Jersey. 

The report found a steady increase in marijuana arrests over that period, from 19,607 in 2001 to 24,067 in 2013. 

nj-is-arresting-more-people-for-marijuana-than-ever-aclu-report-finds photo 1This graphic shows the average number of marijuana arrests per year under the past five New Jersey governors, according to ACLU’s report. ACLU 

Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has been a staunch opponent of legalization. The ACLU’s report shows the average number of annual marijuana arrests rose sharply during Christie’s first term.

Data for more recent years was not included in the group’s analysis, though a recent State Police uniform crime report also shows a continued climb in annual arrests through 2015.

A spokesman for Christie did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Democrats in the Legislature are preparing legislation to tax and regulate marijuana sales in New Jersey almost as soon as Christie leaves office. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy, the frontrunner in the race, has expressed support for the plan. 

The ACLU estimates New Jersey police agencies spend about $143 million per year to enforce the state’s marijuana laws. Nine out of 10 arrests targeted marijuana users rather than dealers, the report found. 

The group is calling on state leaders to pass legalization laws and on the state attorney general to investigate the causes of the racial disparity in arrests. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Christopher Porrino did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. 

The report, which breaks down arrest data across the state by county and legislative district, can be found on the group’s website, aclu-nj.org. 

S.P. Sullivan may be reached at ssullivan@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

N.J. is arresting more people for marijuana than ever, ACLU report finds

Photo : N.J. is arresting more people for marijuana than ever, ACLU report finds

All copyrights for this article are reserved to Pot Internet Search

Comments are closed.