VIRGINIA: While the trend in much of the United States is moving toward decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, Virginia is heading in the opposite direction: sharply rising arrest totals for possession of pot, and a disproportionate number of black people arrested in the commonwealth, according to a new study based on state data reported to the FBI.
Though marijuana arrests dropped 6.5 percent nationwide between 2003 and 2014, possession arrests in Virginia increased by 76 percent in the same period, according to research by the Drug Policy Alliance in New York. And arrests of black people in Virginia for marijuana increased by 106 percent from 2003 to 2013, accounting for 47 percent of the state’s arrests though Virginia’s population is only 20 percent black.
The statistics were compiled by Jon Gettman, a public policy professor at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and follow his national marijuana arrest analysis for the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013. That study showed that black people were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana nationwide, and that 88 percent of the country’s arrests were for marijuana possession.