According to a New York Times report, Black Americans, on average, were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, even though black and white Americans use marijuana at the same rate. In Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, blacks were eight times as likely to be arrested as white.
Although public attitudes toward marijuana use has softened and a number of states have decriminalized its use, half of all drug arrests in 2011 were marijuana-related, roughly the same as in 2010.
Thirteen states have passed or expanded laws decriminalizing marijuana use in recent years and 18 states now allow medicinal use of marijuana. Even with the increasing softening of public attitudes towards marijuana use, there has been growing disparity in the arrest rates for blacks and whites.
Advocates for legalization of marijuana have criticized the Obama administration for opposing state legalization and for being more aggressive than the Bush administration in closing medical marijuana dispensaries and in prosecuting people who use marijuana.
During President Obama’s first three years in office, the arrest rate for marijuana possession was about 5 percent higher than the average rate under President George W. Bush, although a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, according to a national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in March.