Marijuana Arrests in Cook County Are Higher Than Anywhere Else in America

There are 91 arrests per day—just one of the striking new stats on how strict Cook County is in a national comparison.

Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune

The ACLU has a new report out on marijuana arrests and racial disparities among those arrests across the country, and the raw numbers are staggering—especially in Cook County. While it is the second-biggest U.S. county by population, the numbers still have the ability to surprise.

The biggest county in the U.S. is Los Angeles County, with a population of almost ten million; Cook County has a bit more than five million people. And Cook County had more than twice as many arrests for marijuana possession, a rate of 91 per day. Harris County, where Houston is located, has one million fewer residents, and a third as many possession arrests. (Kings County—d.b.a. Brooklyn—and the Bronx do have higher arrest rates than Cook County as a whole.)

Here’s another way of looking at it.

The ACLU data doesn’t have Latino arrest rates for marijuana possession for anywhere but New York and California, because it’s rarely available; generally speaking, Latinos are arrested at a higher rate than whites but lower than blacks. That’s what Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky found for Chicago, when they looked at 47,400 arrests in Chicago in 2009 and 2010: 78 percent percent black, 17 percent Hispanic, five percent white. But when it comes to who is found or pleads guilty, the ratio really gets wide.

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