An average of 13 people per week face police harassment or arrest because of marijuana in the City of Boston alone, Boston Police Department data show. Today the ACLU released a live map showing where police incidents and arrests for marijuana take place in Boston. Using daily updated data from the Boston Police Department and the latest census information, the maps confirm state and nationwide trends: while people of all races use and sell marijuana at similar rates, marijuana enforcement is disproportionately concentrated in communities of color.
"Voters are considering whether to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts. This map shows that despite assurances that few people face arrest over marijuana use, thanks to the voters’ choice in 2008 to decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, considerable resources are still dedicated to policing marijuana users," said Kade Crockford, Director of the ACLU’s Technology for Liberty Program. "Equally important, the map shows that these hundreds of marijuana policing incidents per year take a disproportionate toll in neighborhoods where lots of Black and brown--and fewer white--people live."
The map comes on the heels of a report released by the ACLU earlier this month titled The War on Marijuana in Black and White. The report found that while the number of marijuana arrests in Massachusetts declined since decriminalization, racial disparities persisted. In 2014, statewide arrest rates for possession were 3.3 times higher for Black people than for whites, despite similar use rates.
"We are using open data to tell a story the public needs to hear about the racist reality of the war on drugs," said Paola Villarreal, a Ford Foundation Open Technology Fellow at the ACLU of Massachusetts and the developer who created the mapping tool. "As our maps using BPD data confirm, the current system perpetuates a system of social injustice and unfairly targets communities of color."
The ACLU of Massachusetts has endorsed the Yes on 4 campaign to tax and regulate marijuana in Massachusetts.