The ACLU in New Jersey has issued a new report that claims blacks in the state are unfairly targeted when it comes to arrests for marijuana possession and use.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, blacks were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana in New Jersey than whites between the years 2000 and 2013.

"These arrests are disproportionately made against blacks despite evidence that shows that blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rate," policy counsel Dianna Houenou said Thursday.

She says when you consider what she terms the "collateral consequences" attached to a marijuana arrest — including possible incarceration, loss of financial aid eligibility, ban from public housing, fines and fees up to more than $1,000 — these collateral consequences are going to more likely impact communities of color.

Houenou says there is also a problem outlined in their report about the way that law enforcement agencies are recording ethnicity.

"Right now, Latinos are not being counted as a separate group. So what we see is happening is that Latino arrests are actually being counted as white arrests oftentimes, which would inflate the number of arrests against white people, and thereby diluting the ratio."

The report discovered that New Jersey is now making more arrests for marijuana than ever before.

"In 2013, we made 24,000 arrests. And since then, the number has actually increased. In 2015, the latest year for which data is available, New Jersey made almost 25,000 arrests for marijuana possession.

Houenou says 9 out of 10 pot arrests in New Jersey are of everyday people, not big drug dealers. She says the ACLU supports the current push toward legalization.

"New Jersey right now is very well positioned to bring about marijuana reform soon."

Houenou says it's not a matter of "if," but "when".

"There is increasing support, not just across the country, but also here in New Jersey, for legalization. That means that people are waking up to this issue, they are learning about this issue, and they are learning why it is important, not just for the economic benefits that it would bring, but to also undo the civil rights injustices that is occurring now, the way that we are handling marijuana enforcement."

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Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.


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