News & Politics

DC Has Highest National Arrest Rate for Marijuana Possession

According to a new report, arrests are skewed toward African-Americans.

It’s an interesting statistic for the nation’s capital, a city that still hasn’t been
able to get its medical marijuana program open and operating even though grow centers
and dispensaries are built and ready to go. Not that there’s necessarily a connection,
but according to the Marijuana Policy Project, DC leads the nation in the numbers
of people arrested for marijuana possession by three times the national rate. In the
same report, Maryland ranks fourth.

The report, which covers from 2001 to 2010, was put together by the American Civil
Liberties Union, using information from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program
and the US Census.

Here are the main points highlighted by the MPP:

• Marijuana possession arrests in DC occurred at a rate of 846 per 100,000. In Maryland,
the rate was 409 per 100,000.

• In DC, 91 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession arrests were African-American.
African-Americans were also eight times more likely to be arrested than Caucasians.
In Maryland, African-Americans comprised 58 percent of the marijuana possession arrests.
Nationally, marijuana usage rates are comparable for African-Americans and Caucasians,
according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“Marijuana prohibition is taking a toll on the entire country, but Washington, DC,
and Maryland are among the states paying the highest price,” says
Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the MPP. He says that if the legal marijuana dispensaries were open,
“individuals who are qualified medical marijuana patients would no longer be arrested,
so it is likely there will be at least slightly fewer [arrests]. But the bulk of marijuana
arrests will continue to occur until the city adopts a more sensible marijuana policy.”

The approved legal marijuana dispensaries in the
District were expected to open back
in the early spring. We visited one of them,

Capital City Care, which was ready in every way except for
stocking up on the actual
“product.” The staff thought they would be open in mid-April.

We checked in for an update with the folks who run Capital City Care and received
this reply from
Scott Morgan: “There has been some recent progress in that [the Department of Health] recently
transmitted the official recommendation forms to doctors who requested them. This
means doctors can begin sitting down with patients and filling out the necessary paperwork.
The remaining question is just how long it will take DOH to process those submissions.”
He says that while “nothing is certain,” they hope to be open by mid-June.