Friday, June 16, 2017
As noted in this recent post, a coming election for Governor in New Jersey suggests the possibility of coming major marijuana reform in the Garden State. With that possibility clearly in mind, the ACLU of New Jersey has released this new report on marijuana enforcement in the state titled "Unequal & Unfair: New Jersey’s War on Marijuana Users." This press release and this webpage provides highlights from the 70-page report, and here is an excerpt from the executive summary:
New Jersey’s arrest practices for marijuana possession illustrate the failure of marijuana enforcement. They have a devastating impact of aggressive, costly, racially disparate punishment for use of a drug that for adults is less dangerous than alcohol. For the first time ever, the analysis in this report takes a deep dive into New Jersey’s marijuana possession arrest practices. What it finds is deeply troubling: New Jersey is making more arrests for marijuana possession than ever in a manner that is more racially disparate than ever.
Indeed, our marijuana arrest problem is getting worse, not better.
Key findings of the report include:
• New Jersey is making more arrests for marijuana possession than ever before. In 2013, New Jersey law enforcement made 24,067 marijuana possession arrests, 26 percent more than in 2000, when police made 19,607 arrests. Between 2000 and 2013, New Jersey police made nearly 280,000 total marijuana possession arrests.
• Police make a marijuana possession arrest in New Jersey on average every 22 minutes. This plays out with varying frequency around the state. Cape May was the county with the highest per capita arrest rate in 2013, and the 28th Legislative District, represented by Senator Ron Rice and Assembly members Ralph Caputo and Cleopatra Tucker, was the district with the highest per capita arrest rate that year. Seaside Park in Ocean County had the highest per capita arrest rate of any community in the state.
• Racial disparities in New Jersey marijuana arrests are at an all-time high. The racial disparity in marijuana possession arrests reached an all-time high in 2013. That year, Black New Jerseyans were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite similar usage rates. In 2000, Blacks were 2.2 times more likely to be arrested than Whites, an increase of 34 percent. In 2013, Blacks were 11.3 times more likely to be arrested than whites in the 21st Legislative District. And in Point Pleasant Beach, Blacks were 31.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in 2013 — the highest racial disparity of any municipality included in the study.
• New Jersey wastes more than $143 million per year to enforce our marijuana possession laws. Adding up the cost of police, courts, and corrections, New Jersey expends tremendous resources to implement and enforce marijuana prohibition. Indeed, throughout the past decade, New Jersey has spent more than $1 billion to enforce these laws. These are resources that could be invested in treatment, education, prevention, or other community needs.
• Nine out of ten marijuana arrests are of users, not dealers. In 2013, marijuana possession arrests made up 88 percent of total marijuana arrests statewide. In other words, nearly nine out of 10 arrests made for marijuana were not of dealers or kingpins, but rather New Jerseyans who possessed the lowest amount counted by New Jersey law. In Monmouth County, this number reached 95 percent. It was 97 percent in the 8th Legislative District. In 14 New Jersey communities included in the study, 100 percent of arrests were for low-level possession in 2013.
These findings are particularly troubling when one understands the potential collateral: jail, loss of one’s job, a criminal record for at least three years, driver’s license suspension, up to $1,255 in fines and fees, and potential consequences for one’s immigration status, financial aid eligibility, access to public housing, and the ability to adopt children.