Target: Ezekiel Edwards, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project
Goal: Applaud the organization’s creation of an online tool that allows users to fight racial bias in marijuana arrests
The war on marijuana has its share of critics. With states spending more than $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana laws in 2010 alone, more and more Americans are advocating for an end to such wasteful spending. But law enforcement’s targeting of cannabis users hides an even darker secret: racial bias. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than Whites to be arrested for possession, despite similar usage rates. The ACLU created an easy-to-use online tool, The Uncovery, to help people combat the racism that exists at the heart of the war on drugs.
Users of the online tool can select data for their own states to create info graphics and share them on social media and with their elected officials. The Uncovery draws from a recent ACLU report titled The War on Marijuana in Black and White, and details disturbing facts about the rates of incarceration and the money spent prosecuting non-violent offenders. More than half of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana, an extraordinarily high number when some states have determined that controlled marijuana use should stop being criminalized.
The report’s lead author, Ezekiel Edwards, puts this toll in perspective: “An arrest can bring life-changing consequences for the individual, like loss of employment, loss of student financial aid, and worse. No one should have to bear those burdens for possession of a drug we know to be less harmful than alcohol.” When individuals of color are already at a disadvantage in terms of employment and education due to systemic racial oppression and red-lining, this type of racial bias in arrests cannot be overlooked. Thank the ACLU for its dedication to this issue, and for putting a potent resource like The Uncovery into the hands of the public.
Dear Mr. Edwards,
Too many Americans have had their lives destroyed by the failed war on marijuana. When most arrests are for simple possession, and with such obvious racial bias in both arrests and sentencing, it’s clear that things need to change. I am grateful to you and your colleagues at the ACLU and Interbrand for creating The Uncovery and helping spread information about the wasteful spending and institutional racism underlying the issue.
It is my sincere hope that as site users learn more about the statistics for their own communities that they will share them both with their peers and with elected officials. The ease with which one can do this through The Uncovery is obviously intentional: the tool is simple and powerful, putting facts first and allowing people to create graphic messages for their legislators in less than a minute.
With such a resource now readily available, an end to the insanity of racially charged arrests, prosecutions, and sentencing feels closer than ever. Thank you for your work exposing the racial bias and wasteful spending inherent in the war on marijuana.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Homan05 via Wikimedia