A report released Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union shows South Carolina has the nation’s second-highest arrest rate for marijuana possession as well as a growing racial disparity in arrests.

Law enforcement across the country made more than 6 million arrests between 2010 and 2018, and black people are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in every state, including those that have legalized marijuana, according to the report, which uses FBI data. 

“This report finds that stark racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests have remained unchanged nationwide,” the ACLU concluded. “On average, a black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though black and white people use marijuana at similar rates.”

The numbers for South Carolina paint a stark picture. 

Marijuana possession arrests in the Palmetto State grew by 52.8 percent from 2010 to 2018, according to the report. Seven of the nation’s top 20 counties for such arrests are in South Carolina.

Chester County took the top spot in the county with just over 2,000 arrests per 100,000 residents, the ACLU’s report said. Newberry and Darlington counties were third and fifth highest in the nation. 

Marion, Laurens, Kershaw and Colleton counties also made the ACLU’s list of top 20 for arrests in the country. 

“South Carolina’s marijuana laws needlessly ensnare thousands of people into the criminal justice system,” said Frank Knaack, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “This doesn’t make people safe.”

Black South Carolinians were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested on such charges than white residents, the report said. 

Regardless of what one thinks about marijuana, all people should be concerned over the racial inequities shown in the report, Knaack said. 

“Our marijuana laws have been justified using words like tough on crime,” he said. “It’s time for us to look at our public safety system and build it around justice, fairness and equity.”

This story is developing. Check back for more. 

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Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.


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