ACLU: Fulton and DeKalb’s marijuana arrest rates are among the most racially biased” in the country”

Black Fulton residents are 7.5 times more likely to get arrest for pot possession


  • ACLU

A new study looking at marijuana arrests across the country shows that African-Americans are arrested significantly more often than white people throughout the United States. And few areas display that trend more than Fulton and DeKalb counties.

The American Civil Liberties Union, looking at pot possession arrests between 2001 and 2010, found that black people who are found with weed are almost 4 times more likely to be sent to jail than white people who get caught with pot. The nonprofit, which compiled the study using the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program and U.S. Census data, says the analysis is the first of its kind to look at the specific issue on a county-by-county level in all 50 states:

Marijuana arrests have needlessly ensnared hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system, had a staggeringly disproportionate impact on African-Americans, and comes at a tremendous human and financial cost,” the ACLU’s report says. “The price paid by those arrested and convicted of marijuana possession can be significant and linger for years, if not a lifetime.”

Chad Brock, an ACLU of Georgia attorney, thinks that Fulton and DeKalb’s marijuana arrests are indicative of a larger national problem. He called the war on marijuana, which costs Georgians an estimated $310 million every year, an “unequivocal failure” that’s in need of major legal reforms. Failure to fix the laws, he says, would allow a “racial profiling element” seen in many pot arrests to continue in Georgia.

“It’s hard to say what’s causing it, but the problem exists,” Brock tells CL. “These arrests have tremendous lifelong consequences.”

Between 2001 and 2010, DeKalb saw its overall marijuana possession arrests skyrocket by more than 450 percent - the sixth-highest spike among all U.S. counties. According to the study, black DeKalb residents were almost six times more likely to get arrested.

In Fulton, black citizens made up 87.3 percent of all the county’s pot arrests over that period - nearly double the county’s African-American population. What’s worse: black residents were nearly eight times more likely to go to jail for getting caught with weed on them. The Atlanta Police Department, in response to CL’s inquiry, says there haven’t been targeted arrests based on racial demographics.

“This is a difficult issue that is far more complex than numbers can properly illustrate,” APD spokesman Carlos Campos says. “I can assure you there is no effort, formal or informal, to target or profile African-Americans or other minorities for arrests of any kind, including for marijuana possession.”

The APD responded similarly to a WSB-TV report last year that found 93 percent of Atlanta’s marijuana possession arrests were African-Americans. CL also reached out to the DeKalb County Police Department for comment. If we hear back, we’ll post an update.

In addition, Georgia CARE (Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform and Education) will host a meeting about “common sense marijuana policy” at Manuel’s Tavern next Thursday with the ACLU and NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). It’ll start at 6:30 p.m.

For now, though, you can check out the ACLU’s full report after the jump (be sure to check out page 145 for the bulk of Georgia’s analysis).