The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Report

Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests

The War on Marijuana in Black and White


Here is where the story startsIt’s time to end the War on Marijuana.

The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities.

Watch, read and share original analysis of arrest data and moving personal stories. Together we can push for smart and fair reform.

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Original Data Analysis Casts the War on Drugs in a Whole New Light

What you are about to see is happening in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural. It’s not fair. It’s not making us any safer. It’s wasting valuable resources. And it’s taking a toll on thousands of lives every year.

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Lives Derailed

All wars are expensive, and the War on Marijuana has been no different. Not only have states blown billions that could have been otherwise invested, but the personal cost to those arrested is often significant and can linger for years. When people are arrested for possessing even tiny amounts of marijuana, it can have dire collateral consequences that affect their eligibility for public housing and student financial aid, employment opportunities, child custody determinations, and immigration status.

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Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers

According to the ACLU’s original analysis, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana. Nationwide, the arrest data revealed one consistent trend: significant racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.




Every 0.01 hours someone in the United States is arrested for having marijuana; a Black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested than a white person.
Uncover the Facts

Police routinely arrest millions of people just for having marijuana every year. Billions of taxpayer dollars fund these arrests, which disproportionately target Black people.
Visit to learn more on the numbers behind the failed war on marijuana, and TAKE ACTION by emailing your elected official.

The War on Marijuana is a Failure

Between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million pot arrests in the U.S. That’s one bust every 37 seconds and hundreds of thousands ensnared in the criminal justice system.
Read the report →

Enforcing marijuana laws costs us about $3.6 billion a year, yet the War on Marijuana has failed to diminish the use or availability of marijuana.
Read the report →

Marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Read the report →

The ACLU Campaign Smart Justice Fair Justice focusing on crimimal law reform
Smart Justice Fair Justice

We’re not stuck with an unproductive and wasteful criminal justice system. Check out the ACLU’s Smart Justice Fair Justice campaign for more on our solutions to mass incarceration, including Ending the War on Drugs.


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