A new study conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Safety has found that a disproportionate number of minorities are being arrested for marijuana possession. Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012. This year has become the state’s pre-legalization mark, given that 2014 was the first official year recreational marijuana became available to the public. Since this time, state surveys show that there has been no rise in teen marijuana use. Black, white, and Latino adults and adolescents have been shown to use marijuana to the same degree. Yet, despite no rise in usage and no difference in use amongst the demographics, there has been a startling rise in the number of black and Latino marijuana arrests.
Most of the arrests happened in 10 counties. In each of those counties, 100 people were arrested for marijuana possession. In the other 50 or so counties, there were only 25 marijuana arrests reported. So it would seem that the counties with the higher arrest rates would reflect areas with the highest usage, but this is not the case. A survey conducted in 2013 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed that the highest marijuana abuse by teenagers happened in Pueblo County with a rate of 32.1 percent of teen use. Despite this, only 5 teenagers were arrested in this county. On the other hand, 20.6 percent of teens in Arapahoe County were found to abuse marijuana, yet almost 400 teenagers were arrested there.
Marijuana Arrests Not Matching Stats
Clearly arrest rates do not reflect marijuana use in the regions. Those who conducted the report studied what the difference was in the schools with the highest expulsion and suspensions and found “the drug suspension rates are lowest in schools with a smaller proportion of minorities… Schools with the highest proportion of minorities have a drug suspension rate 110 percent higher than schools with the lowest proportion of minorities.” The number of white teens arrested went down by 8 percent while the number of Latino arrests rose by 29 percent and the number of black arrests skyrocketed by 58 percent.
A National Trend Against Minorities
These numbers reflect a national trend against minorities when it comes to marijuana arrests. “The War on Marijuana in Black and White”, a report conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union, shows that despite black and white communities using marijuana at a similar rate, black people across the country are 3.73 times more prone to being arrested for marijuana possession. According to the report, black people are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession “in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small black populations.” The report states that “indeed, in over 96% of counties with more than 30,000 people in which at least 2% of the residents are black, blacks are arrested at higher rates than whites for marijuana possession.”
The inequities within the legal system that minorities face are only in the baby stages of being revealed and reviewed with the intention of making a change. While marijuana possession arrests are only a small part of the problem, they are still a significant concern. The arrests cost jobs, housing, student financial aid, parental custody, and so on. An arrest has the potential to ruin someone’s life and opportunities for a decent life. Cycles of generational poverty, depression, and desperation are created by these social inequalities that ultimately affect every single person living in the country down the line. As a national community, the need for change has become an urgent matter that every person must stand to review.