Although African Americans use and sell marijuana at the same or lower rate as white people, they are three to six times more likely to be arrested for it, depending on when they get caught and where they live, according to a study of FBI data between 1980 and 2007 by Human Rights Watch.
In 2011 in New York City alone, there were nearly 51,000 marijuana arrests — 87% of them among blacks and Hispanics, a rate that is completely out of proportion with the city’s racial makeup.
Drug convictions are often a gateway to a life of crime: they label young people as criminals, disrupt their education, expose them to more serious types of crime during incarceration and reduce their odds of employment. Because more minorities get arrested for marijuana, they are disproportionately exposed to this vicious cycle, which often ends in long prison terms and loss of voting rights. Consequently, enforcement of U.S. drug law causes far greater harm to health and well-being — especially among minorities — than marijuana itself.