ACLU Leader Says Legalizing Marijuana is a “Racial Justice Issue”


In a country with supposed “equal rights for all”, it’s no secret that several minority groups are often treated as anything but equal. Take the war on drugs for example, where blacks are often targeted at an alarmingly higher number than whites. For a nation that claims to treat everyone as equals, there is still little justice for several minority groups.

New ACLU Director is Working to See Things Change

The new executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amol Sinha, thinks legalizing marijuana could help this. Sinha recently stated that legalizing recreational cannabis would help repair “a racial justice issue and civil rights crisis” because the war on drugs disproportionately targets black citizens of New Jersey.

According to Sinha, “In New Jersey you are three times more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana possession if you’re black than if you’re white. Add that to the context of our racial disparity rates in the prison system in New Jersey. It feels like a compelling need to address this drug enforcement issue that is exacerbating not only disparities, but also costing an arm and a leg.”

With former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (and his backwards views on marijuana legislation) out, Sinha’s ideas could soon become a reality. According to the new Governor elect of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana. And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”

War on Drugs Targets (Still) Targeting Minorities

The US spends over $50 billion annually on the war on drugs. And while 22 states have decriminalized or removed the threat of jail time for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana, not every state is on board.

The ACLU reported earlier this year that blacks were three times as likely as whites to be arrested on marijuana charges. There is however, no difference in the rate of consumption among the two groups.

“We’re spending more than 50 percent of drug enforcement costs on marijuana possession,” Sinha said. “We want to make sure marijuana is legalized and that any bill that comes to the governor-elect’s desk deals with the racial justice issues, just as it does with the regulation of the cannabis markets.”