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Which Texas Counties Disproportionately Arrest Blacks for Pot Possession?

Fifteen law enforcement agencies across East Texas are facing criticism for arresting African-Americans on marijuana possession charges at rates much higher than whites.

The American Civil Liberties Union says VanZandtCounty in particularis among the worst offenders in the nation.  The ACLU of Texas says blacks make up less than three percent of the population in Van Zandt County, but they account for three-quarters of all marijuana possession busts.

Here are the Texas counties being targeted by the ACLU, and how much more frequently it says blacks are arrested than whites for marijuana possession. 

  • Van Zandt County - 34.7 times more frequently 
  • Cook County - 24.7 times more frequently 
  • Chambers County 9.3 times more frequently 
  • Hopkins County 8.4 times more frequently 
  • Waller County 6.5 times more frequently 
  • Orange County 6.5 times more frequently 
  • Rockwall County 6.1 times more frequently 
  • Titus County 5.7 times more frequently 
  • Angelina County 5.0 times more frequently 
  • Rusk County 4.7 times more frequently 
  • Grayson County 4.3 times more frequently 
  • Upshur County 4.2 times more frequently

“Law enforcement ought to enforce the laws neutrally and fairly without regard to the color of people’s skin," says Rebecca Robertson, a policy director with the ACLU of Texas. "When we have statistics like we have in Texas, where blacks are being targeted for enforcement in this way, it really undermines the values that we all hold sacred.” 
Reporting by KUT News last year found that the Austin Police Department was also more likely to bust African-Americans for pot possession. Eight percent of Austinites are black, but they accounted for 28 percent of marijuana possession interdictions since 2009, according to records obtained by KUT News.

Research by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows African-Americans and whites use marijuana at about the same rates. 

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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