A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice is the first of its kind to examine the fiscal, public safety, and human toll of marijuana prohibition in the state of Alabama.
The results are as devastating as the policy is blatantly racist.
Released Oct. 18, 2018, the report found that Black people are four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in Alabama.
Examining the 2,351 people arrested for weed possession in 2016, the study found that 11 per 10,000 Black people were arrested on weed charges as compared to only 2.7 per 10,000 white people.
In possession felony cases, the researchers also found that Black people were five times more likely to be arrested than white people.
Out of the 20 most common arrest offenses in Alabama, marijuana possession presented the largest disparity.
The report noted that differences in arrest rates by race were particularly concentrated in a handful of counties across the state.
Of Alabama’s top 50 law enforcement agencies, ranked by cannabis possession arrest totals, researchers found that seven police forces were 10 times more likely to arrest Black people, clearly reflecting the intensive over-policing that Black residents face across the state.
In addition to jail time, weed possession arrests invariably result in a variety of consequences that follow people through their lives.
The Alabama report also included an economic analysis of the cost of marijuana prohibition, conducted by two economists at Western Carolina University. The study found that:
· Alabama and its municipalities spent an estimated $22 million to enforce the prohibition against marijuana possession in 2016.
· Despite studies showing black and white people use marijuana at the same rates, black people were approximately four times as likely to be arrested for either misdemeanor or felony marijuana possession.
· The enforcement of marijuana possession laws has created a crippling backlog at the state agency tasked with analyzing forensic evidence in all criminal cases, including violent crimes.