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Report Finds Racial Bias in Kentucky Pot Arrests

Graphic: The ACLU finds African-Americans in Kentucky are nearly six times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Graphic: The ACLU finds African-Americans in Kentucky are nearly six times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana possession.
August 26, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. - African-Americans in Kentucky are nearly six times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than are white people, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union. The report also alleges billions of dollars have been wasted nationwide on racially-biased arrests.

Study author Ezekiel Edwards blames racial bias, since federal studies show that usage rates are about the same for blacks and whites.

"Race being the one common factor here certainly raises questions about racial profiling and community profiling," he charged. "And I think the police are more likely to go to certain neighborhoods."

The study found that, nationwide, blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites.

Kentucky's cost for enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010 was more than $19 million, according to the ACLU study. Edwards remarked that that's a heavy bill for cracking down on marijuana use.

"That's money that really should go to public schools, drug treatment and to fight serious crime."

When the study compared 2010 marijuana possession arrests to those in 2001, Kentucky registered the second-largest drop in the nation. Pot possession arrests declined 61 percent. And, less than a third of the drug arrests in Kentucky (31.8 percent) were for possession of marijuana compared with a national average that reached nearly half of all drug arrests (45.7 percent).

That ACLU report is available at ACLU.org.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY