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June 24, 2013

Drug arrests run along racial lines

Report shows racial disparities in state's marijuana arrests.

INDIANAPOLIS — A new report that shows significant racial disparity in marijuana arrests may revive the debate over pot penalties in Indiana.

The report, issued in early June by the American Civil Liberties Union, uses a decade’s worth of federal crime reporting data to show that black Americans are disproportionately arrested on marijuana possession charges in Indiana and across the nation.

In 2010 alone, blacks in Indiana were three times more likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana as whites, according to the ACLU report. Nationally, blacks were nearly four times more likely to be arrested on marijuana possession charges in 2010.

The report, “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” found the disparity exists, despite studies that show blacks and whites use marijuana at about the same rate.

State Sen. Karen Tallian, a liberal Democrat who forged an alliance with some conservative Republican legislators in a failed push to decriminalize marijuana possession earlier this year, said the report validates her concerns about the fairness of the state’s pot laws.

“When you have about 9 percent of the population with almost 28 percent of the arrests, you know something is wrong,” said Tallian of numbers found in the ACLU report comparing the state’s black population in 2010 to that year’s marijuana possession arrests.

Tallian said the report’s findings on the fiscal impact of pot laws may also help re-ignite the debate over the state’s pot penalties, which are some of the toughest in the nation.

It found that Indiana spent almost $29 million in 2010 alone on police, courts, and prison costs to enforce Indiana’s marijuana possession laws, which are some of the toughest in the nation.

“When you look at the fiscal costs, it’s just amazing,” Tallian said.

The ACLU used numbers from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program to make its case for legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, examining arrests in all 50 states and in nearly 500 counties for a decade.

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