Media Contact

Lynette Kalsnes,, 612-270-8531

April 20, 2020

The American Civil Liberties Union released a new report today that shows Black people are 5.4 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in Minnesota, despite comparable usage rates.  

A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform details marijuana possession arrests from 2010 to 2018 and updates our unprecedented national report published in 2013, The War on Marijuana in Black and White. Although the number of people arrested for marijuana possession has decreased over the past decade, racial disparities in arrests still exist in every state. Key findings include: 

  • A Black person in Minnesota is 5.4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, down from 7.8 times in 2010. Though this racial gap has improved slightly since 2010, it is still unacceptable. 
  • Minnesota ranks 8th for largest racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests.  
  • In 2018, marijuana possession arrests accounted for 35% of all drug arrests here. 
  • Although the overwhelming majority of Minnesota counties have racial disparities, Goodhue, Olmstead, St. Louis, Ramsey and Carver Counties have the worst records, ranging from Black people being 7.07 times more likely to face arrest than whites in Carver County to 11.19 times more likely in Goodhue County.  
  • Nationally, there were more than 6.1 million marijuana-related arrests from 2010 to 2018. In Minnesota in 2018 alone, there were almost 9,000 arrests, mainly for possession.  
  • Arrest rates decreased in states that legalized marijuana, but racial disparities remained

“Minnesota continues to vigorously enforce marijuana laws, which disproportionately target Black communities and entangle hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal legal system every year at a tremendous cost,” said Benjamin Feist, ACLU-MN chief programs officer. “As a matter of racial justice and sound public health policy, Minnesota must legalize marijuana, with racial equity as the foundation of the reform.” 

The report’s recommended reforms provide a road map for reducing marijuana criminalization and arrests. Reforms like these would help decrease the spread of COVID-19 by reducing jail and prison populations.  

The ACLU-MN has a long history of vocal advocacy around eliminating racial disparities in marijuana arrests, and we will continue our call to end racialized policing, to legalize marijuana use and possession, and to ensure legalization efforts are grounded in racial justice.