Marijuana Law Reform

Marijuana Law Reform

Arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana constitute one of the most common drug-related points of entry into the criminal justice system, and are often directed primarily at people of color, despite strong evidence that whites use marijuana at higher rates. The Criminal Law Reform Project advocates for the decriminalization of personal possession of marijuana across the nation.

TheUncovery.org -- Uncover the Facts

Eliminating penalties for low-level marijuana possession will prevent tens of thousands of people from becoming enmeshed in the criminal justice system in the first instance. Moreover, decriminalization will have the added effect of keeping people out of jail for probation and parole violations, and will eliminate the many collateral consequences that flow from marijuana arrests, thereby reducing the gross number of people entering or otherwise harmed by the criminal justice system.

Drug prohibition has largely driven America’s incarceration rate to unacceptable levels. Drug offenders comprise over 500,000 of the more than 2 million people in our nation’s prisons and jails, and drug offenses and failed drug tests account for a significant number of those returning to prison for parole and probation violations. Most of those incarcerated for marijuana offenses do not belong in prison, as they represent little or no risk to public safety. Removing criminal penalties for marijuana offenses will therefore reduce the U.S. prison population and more effectively protect the public and promote public health.

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Find out why the ACLU supports medical marijuana laws »

SPECIAL FEATURES

The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests (2013 Feature)

The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities.

RESOURCES

The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests (2013 Report)

The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias.

Medical Marijuana (2011 Resource)

Contemporary scientific evidence confirms the countless stories of the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana, which has provided unique relief for serious conditions, including cancer and AIDS, when no other medicine is as effective or free of side effects such as nausea or loss of appetite. Nearly one million patients nationwide now use medical marijuana as recommended by their doctors and in accordance with state laws.

MULTIMEDIA

Just Say No to the War on Drugs (2011 Video)

Comedian Elon James White takes on the failed and costly 40-year war.

CASES

Casias v. Walmart (2011 Case)

The ACLU is suing Wal-Mart on behalf of a cancer patient who was fired for using medical marijuana in compliance with state law.

Arizona v. U.S. (2011 Case)

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association (AzMMA), argued for the dismissal of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s lawsuit challenging her own state’s medical marijuana law. The law protects the right of sick patients to access the medicine they need. In January 2012, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

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