Even though studies show that Black people and white people use marijuana at about the same rate, a Black person in Iowa is 7.3 times more likely to be arrested for possession, according to an ACLU report based on law enforcement data.
Compared to a national average of 3.64, Iowa is ranked as the fifth-worst in the nation for racial disparities for marijuana arrests, even as other states are decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. Only Montana, Kentucky, Illinois, and West Virginia had worse racial disparities.
In the age of coronavirus when thousands of Iowans in jails and overcrowded prisons face life-threatening conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the report shows that waging the War on Marijuana makes even less sense than ever before.
Marijuana should be legalized in Iowa and a majority of Iowans agree. But it should also be done in a way that combats racial disparities in arrests head-on.
Racial disparities in arrests are not occurring because people of color commit more crimes. The overpolicing of Black communities and communities of color, implicit bias in law enforcement, racial profiling, and poverty are often the culprits.
Other key findings of the report include:
- Black people in Iowa were arrested at a rate of 776 per 100,000 of the Black general population compared to just 107 per 100,000 of the white general population in 2018.
- A number of Iowa counties have even more disturbingly high racial disparity rates:
- In Pottawattamie County, a Black person is more than 17 times more likely to be arrested.
- In Dubuque County, a Black person is more than 13 times more likely to be arrested.
- In Scott County, nearly 13 times more likely.
- In Cerro Gordo County, more than 11 times more likely.
- In Linn County, nearly 10 times more likely.
- Marijuana possession arrests are the major driver of drug arrests in Iowa, making up 55 percent of all drug arrests.
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