Every 22 minutes New Jersey police make a marijuana possession arrest. If you lined up every person arrested on marijuana-related charges in New Jersey, they would stretch the entirety of the New Jersey Turnpike and even spill into Maryland.
This information comes courtesy of a recent American Civil Liberties Union report. The advocacy organization determined that New Jersey police agencies spend about $143 million a year to enforce the state’s harsh marijuana policies. Furthermore nine out of 10 arrests targeted users instead of dealers.
The report also details the damage and disruption these policies reap on citizens. As the ACLU wrote:
Lee, a Newarker in his late 40s, was home with his wife one evening and saw officers on their porch, looking for a suspect. He asked if they needed help, and the officers barged in, forcing Lee and his wife on the floor. Lee told officers that they had a small amount of marijuana — less than an ounce. They arrested him for marijuana possession, traumatizing him and his wife in the process.
The report lso found black residents were three times more likely to be arrested on marijuana possession charges than their white counterparts. It’s also important to note there was no difference of usage between the two groups, despite the difference in arrests. That racial disparity is probably even higher as state and federal reporting on crime statistics group white and Hispanic suspects together.
“Well over half of all Americans support legalization, but more people are arrested for marijuana possession in our state than ever before,” Dianna Houenou, the group’s police counsel, told NJ.com. “The racial disparity in these arrests has only grown.”
Houenou called the issue a “civil rights crisis.” New Jersey is arresting more residents for marijuana possession than ever before. Law enforcement made 24,067 marijuana possession arrests in 2013. That’s 26 percent more than in 2000, when police made 19,607 arrests. Overall, New Jersey police made nearly 280,000 total marijuana possession arrests between 2000 and 2013.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization. Since he took office in 2009, the ACLU reports shows that marijuana possessions arrest rose sharply in his first term.
As the ACLU report concluded, “Reform of our marijuana laws is a civil rights priority and a key component of reforming our broken criminal justice system.”
You can read the full report here.