Racial disparity in marijuana arrests; overall charges down

Criminal justice reform, particularly for communities of color, was one of the principal reasons Coloradans voted two-to-one to legalize marijuana. Now, just over a year in, the Drug Policy Alliance has released a report showing how legalization has changed police and courts. The takeaway? While marijuana charges are down by 95 percent, race still matters.

You can read the full report here and a few highlights below:

via Drug Policy Alliance  report
via Drug Policy Alliance report

-In 2010, more than 30,000 Coloradans went to court to fight a marijuana possession charge. By the end of 2014, that number had dropped to just under 2,000.

-Young men of color — primary targets in the war on drugs — saw the benefits of decriminalization. When voters passed Amendment 64 to legalize marijuana in 2012, the rate of marijuana distribution incidents was 87 per 100,000 among blacks. Today it is closer to 25 per 100,000.

-In 2014, blacks in Colorado are 2.4 times more likely than whites to get arrested for marijuana charges.

-“The overall decrease in arrests, charges and cases is enormously beneficial to communities of color who bore the brunt of marijuana prohibition prior to the passage of Amendment 64,” said Rosemary Harris Lytle, Regional Chair of the NAACP, in a release.

-“However, we are concerned with the rise in disparity for the charge of public consumption and challenge law enforcement to ensure this reality is not discriminatory in any manner.”


Photo by Chris Yarzab