ACLU: D.C. pot possession arrest data show differences from national trends

June 12, 2013

Following the report last week from the ACLU that marijuana possession arrests had surged across the country over a 10-year period, the civil liberties group’s local chapter has now drilled down into the data to produce what it says is a more detailed look at how that trend has played out in the District.

The national report attributed much of the uptick to an increase in pot possession arrests of African Americans. According to the local ACLU report released Wednesday, the District had higher pot possession arrest rates and greater racial disparity among those arrested than almost any other state or county in the country.

D.C. is often compared to other states, which include non-urban areas, but counties can be more comparable jurisdictions. The report said that the District outstripped places such as Miami-Dade and Philadelphia counties in pot possession arrest rates.

In 2010, based on Metropolitan Police Department numbers, D.C. police made a daily average of nearly 15 such arrests. Arrest rates, the ACLU report said, were highest in gentrifying neighborhoods.

The report is part of the ACLU’s efforts to decriminalize marijuana.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier last week took issue with the national report’s findings and said that under her watch, MPD has been focused on pushing down violent crime rates, not going after pot users.

While the ACLU attributes the rise in marijuana arrest rates to post-crack drug war policies, academic experts who have studied the issue are not sure precisely what the cause is.

Annys Shin has been a staff writer at the Washington Post since 2004.
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