From many angles, legal cannabis has so far been a resounding success. But from another point of view, there’s a huge problem with legal marijuana that no one is talking about.
One of the most popular arguments for cannabis legalization had to do with winding down the war on drugs.
Legalize marijuana, advocates would say, and marijuana arrests will go down significantly. Police would save resources and time, and people wouldn’t have their lives ruined for petty, non-violent offenses.
The data shows, the argument, was correct. Legal marijuana in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, has led to a dramatic decrease in cannabis-related arrests.
But one thing hasn’t changed, and it’s a huge problem that legalization has to address.
That problem has a color: black and brown. Of the marijuana arrests that still do happen, it’s black and latinos people who disproportionately end up in ‘cuffs.
Here’s a recent picture of the situation. In a March report by Colorado’s Department of Public Safety, researchers found that between 2012 and 2014, Black 10- to 17-year-olds were arrested for weed 58 percent more than in years pastLatinosxs experienced a 29 percent increase.
That means, that the racial inequality of marijuana-related arrests got worse after Colorado legalized adult recreational use of cannabis.
So what about white people? Among whites, juvenile marijuana arrests decreased by 8 percent. That makes the race gap even wider in Colorado when it comes to cannabis arrests.
And it’s not the case that Black and Latino kids are smoking more weed than their white peers.
BuzzFeed News issued a report which looked into the race disparities. A slightly larger percentage of Black and Latino high school students reported using cannabis in the last month, but not enough to justify the “wildly disproportionate” rates of arrests.
But it’s not just Black minors who are being punished at uneven rates. Black adults in Colorado are also affected at alarmingly high rates compared to white adults.
In 2014, black adults were arrested at almost triple the number of whites. Back in 2012, on the eve of recreational legalization, the ratio of black to white arrests for cannabis was 2:1.
This is a problem that exists everywhere recreational cannabis use has been legalized.