Texas’ Marijuana Arrest Rates Are Even More Racist Than We Thought

The state's large Hispanic population skews the numbers.

Image from ShereeKrider/Flickr
Image from ShereeKrider/Flickr
Last summer we mentioned some of the findings of an ACLU study on the United States’ racially biased war on marijuana. The civil liberties organization has now launched a website that dumbs their facts down to a couple simple forms that allow users to compare states on the disparity between the number of black and white arrests for marijuana possession and to see how much each state spends annually on enforcing marijuana laws.

That spurred me to take another, closer look at the ACLU report. In Texas, a black person is 2.33 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than is a white person. (Despite marijuana use at similar rates among whites and blacks.) The disparity is a little greater than in Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton counties, and a little less than that in Collin County. Anyway, that rate actually places Texas among the 10 states with the least difference between how blacks and whites are dealt with by law enforcement — though it’s still nothing to be proud of. (The most racist state by this measure is Iowa, where a black person is 8.33 times more likely to be arrested for pot than a white person.)

Only, the number doesn’t tell the whole story. The situation in Texas is likely much worse. I’ll let the ACLU explain:

Indeed, of the 10 states with the lowest disparities in Black-white arrest rates — Hawaii, Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Maine, California, Texas, Arizona, and Rhode Island — seven are among the 15 states with the highest Latino populations, including the top four: New Mexico, California, Texas, and Arizona. In other words, in these states, of the Black-white arrest disparity, a portion, if not a significant number, of marijuana possession arrests are of Latinos, but the FBI/UCR likely classifies them as “white” arrests, thereby reducing artificially the Black-white arrest disparities to the extent that Latinos are arrested at higher rates than whites. That is, if many of those “white” arrests are actually arrests of Latinos, and if the Latino arrest rate is greater than the white arrest rate, the actual Black-white arrest rates are much greater than the disparities contained in the present data. How much greater, unfortunately, cannot be ascertained from the present FBI/UCR data.

Texas spent $251,648,800 enforcing marijuana laws in 2010 (the last year for which all of this data is available).


  • Jack

    Yeah – well the great majority of folks that stink like weed on the elevator in my downtown apartment are black. Come to think of it, they’ve all been black. Based on my informal study, I’m shocked that the disparity isn’t worse.

    • downtown dweller

      Sounds like Jack works for DPD.

    • Really, dude?

      Jack, that sort of racism is what leads to ignorance and victimization of people for choosing to relax with a relatively harmless substance.

      Enjoy your liquor, though.. Amiright?

  • Melissa Chowning

    Texas spent $251,648,800 enforcing marijuana laws in a single year? Are you kidding me? A quarter of a BILLION DOLLARS? Smh…

    • BrentDude

      Meanwhile, Colorado is raking in a $100m/yr extra in taxes.

  • Donny Brook

    And 50% of the murder rate is from Blacks, but that is racist too. Look, I don’t care what people do, but if youre going to do something illegal, don’t cry when you’re arrested and sentenced. But here is an idea, if you don’t like it here, move to Liberia. You won’t have to put up with white folk there and you can do whatever you want.

  • Immortal Illumined

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING!!!13

    “any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death” – cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary….nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states…even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice…no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol…not 1….my turn, I gave you 20 years, watch and learn…Texas will be last

    Deaths by Alcohol and Tobacco: Millions
    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
    Deaths by Guns: Millions
    Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever…they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever


  • Ted

    I’m sorry, what does “racist” mean again? I keep forgetting.

  • Donny Brook

    Move and enjoy. It is bad enough dodging drunk drivers, illegal pot smokers and other drug users, nitwits texting and talking, and the rest of the riff raff on our highways. God help the drunk, doggie, or inattentive moron if they hit me and I survive, because I will hunt you down.

  • RacistRepublican

    blacks should go back to africa. they do not belong in america. im glad blacks are arrested and punished more than aryans for the same crime. blacks are only 3/5th of a human.

  • WTF

    This state is missing out on the Tax Dollars from the sale of Marijuana! Millions going into to the hands of drug dealers and gang controlled criminals while our schools are closed because lack of funds. What are we thinking???

  • Jose Gonzales

    Don’t mess with Texas unless it puts politics and ideology over science and evidence.