PHILADELPHIA — In a sharply worded report, The American Civil Liberties Union called upon Pennsylvania to legalize marijuana, citing increased racial injustice in the state.
Although usage rates appeared flat across racial lines, the group’s state chapter found that black Pennsylvanians were eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Pennsylvanians in 2016. This excludes data from Philadelphia, where decriminalization has been in effect since October 2014.
The ACLU found that 178,000 people had been arrested for marijuana crimes between 2010 and 2016, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $225 million. Arrests for marijuana possession during this period increased by 33 percent in the 66 counties outside of Philadelphia.
The ACLU cited an African-American healthcare worker named David who had grown marijuana at home for his ailing wife. After she died, he was dismantling and trying to clear out his garden when it was discovered. Following his arrest and a six month jail sentence, he lost his medical licenses and was forced to file for bankruptcy.
Marijuana arrests carry a stigma for victims, notes the ACLU, many of whom lose access to employment, education, and housing,. The group called for an end to prohibition. Fifty nine percent of Pennsylvanians now support legalization, they said, and those numbers are climbing each month.