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Marijuana arrests depend on race in Kalamazoo County

African-Americans in Michigan and across the country are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, according to a new study by the American Civil Liberties Union. In Kalamazoo County, black individuals are more than eight times more likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana than white people.

The study found that Kalamazoo County had one of the biggest racial disparities in Michigan, prompting many civil rights and civil liberties groups to question why there is such a racial disparity between white and black people in the county.

Previous studies have found that white and black teenagers and young adults use illegal drugs, including marijuana, at similar rates so there should not be such a large difference in the number of black people being arrested for possession of marijuana compared to white people.

The main findings of the study reported that in Michigan, the arrest rate for black people in Kalamazoo County is three times higher than statewide number, and that almost 50 percent of drug arrests in the state of Michigan were for marijuana possession in 2010. The study also found that from 2001 to 2010, the arrest rate for white people declined while the arrest rate for blacks doubled in Michigan.

Michigan was not the only state to see such a racial disparity for marijuana possession arrests. The study reported that throughout the nation there was a racial bias against black people for marijuana possession. On average, the study found that blacks were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in the U.S.

The ACLU said that almost half of all drug arrests in the country are for marijuana possession despite it being a low-level, non-violent offense. Even though marijuana possession is considered a low-level offense, it still results in serious consequences for offenders, including a person’s ability to find housing, receive financial aid for schooling, affect employment opportunities and child custody determinations.

Racial profiling and racial bias in Michigan is a serious issue and individuals who have been arrested for marijuana possession and believe it was a result of racial profiling or bias should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Source: M Live, “Study: Blacks in Kalamazoo County 8 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana,” Julie Mack, June 4, 2013

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