A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union has found that the number of New Jersey residents arrested for marijuana-related crimes has been steadily increasing over the past decade. The report analyzed FBI Uniform Crime Report and U.S. Census Data from 2000 to 2013, and found that marijuana arrests increased from 19,607 in 2001 to 24,067 in 21013.
The report estimates that the state spends about $143 million per year to crack down on marijuana offenders, totaling over $1 billion in the past decade. But instead of targeting drug dealers and smugglers, 90% of these arrests target individual cannabis users. The report estimates that New Jersey cops arrest someone for cannabis possession every 22 minutes.
The ACLU reported that black residents were three times more likely than white residents to be arrested, and suggest that the racial disparity may be even worse, because federal crime statistics count Hispanic people as white. The report calls on the state's attorney general to investigate the causes behind this extreme racial disparity in arrests.
Dianna Houenou, ACLU police counsel for New Jersey said that the report is indicative of a “civil rights crisis” in the state. "The racial disparity in these arrests has only grown. Well over half of all Americans support legalization, but more people are arrested for marijuana possession in our state than ever before.”
The New Jersey Legislature is currently debating a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana sales and use, but current Governor Chris Christie would certainly veto any such bill. Christie has long been opposed to legalization efforts, and the number of marijuana arrests in the state increased dramatically when he took office in 2010. However, Governor Christie is nearing the end of his term, and Democratic candidate Phil Murphy, one of the frontrunners in the race, has expressed his support for legalization.