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SANTA FE, N.M.—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico pledged to continue to fight the injustices caused by the criminalization of marijuana in New Mexico after Senate Joint Resolution 10, a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana in New Mexico, died in committee.
"The criminalization of marijuana creates far more problems in our society than the drug itself," said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. "A new study from the ACLU shows that although people of color do not use marijuana at rates higher than white people, they make up the vast majority of marijuana arrests. We cannot afford to continue wasting millions of dollars arresting and incarcerating people on the basis of race and for possessing a substance that’s safer than alcohol."
In June of 2013, the national ACLU released an exhaustive report, The War on Marijuana in Black and White that showed that laws criminalizing marijuana were overwhelmingly enforced with racial bias against people of color. Some of the major findings include:
- Marijuana arrests are on the rise in the U.S.
- Marijuana arrests now account for 52% of all drug-related arrests, the vast majority of these for mere possession
- Although people of color and white people use marijuana at the same rates, people of color are dramatically more likely to be arrested for possession than white people (on average a black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person)
The report concludes that the War on Marijuana, like the larger War on Drugs of which it is a part, is a failure. It has needlessly ensnared hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system, had a staggeringly disproportionate impact of African-Americans, and comes at a tremendous human and financial cost.
"We will continue to seek ways to lessen the negative impacts of the destructive War on Marijuana," said ACLU-NM Director of Public Policy Steven Allen. "This racially biased policy of prohibition hurts our families and our communities. We need to legalize or decriminalize marijuana and start treating drug abuse as a public health problem, not a criminal justice problem."