While marijuana possession arrests have declined nationwide, in particular in states that have legalized cannabis, racial disparities are unfortunately still a problem. Many more black men and women are being arrested for marijuana related infractions than white men and women.
Eradicating racial disparities of any sort needs to be a focus of the nation whether it has to do with marijuana or anything else. Isolating why black people are not being treated as fairly as white people in terms of marijuana related crime is a must for authorities.
Alaska legalized marijuana in 2014, although it did not start sales until 2016. In the state, white and black arrest rates fell by nearly 99 percent and more than 93 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2016. But black people were arrested for marijuana at a rate of 17.7 per 100,000 in 2016, while white people were arrested at a rate of 1.8 per 100,000 — about 10 times less.
Washington, DC, decriminalized marijuana in 2014, then legalized possession and growing but not sales in a voter-approved ballot initiative that same year. For possession, arrest rates between 2010 and 2016 dropped by more than 99 percent for black people and almost 99 percent for white people. But, again, racial disparities remained: Black people were arrested for possession at a rate of 8 per 100,000 people in 2016, while white people were arrested at a rate of 2 per 100,000 — four times less.
This is similar to what we saw in Colorado, one of the first two states to legalize pot in 2012. A 2016 report from the Colorado Department of Public Safety found, “The decrease in the number of marijuana arrests by race is the greatest for White arrestees (‐51%) compared to Hispanics (‐33%) and African‐Americans (‐25%). The marijuana arrest rate for Whites and Hispanics is comparable, but the marijuana arrest rate for African‐Americans is almost three times that of Whites (348/100,000 for Blacks and 123/100,000 for Whites).”
Perhaps the problem stems from socioeconomic disparities or perhaps police are simply prejudiced in who they decide to arrest. What will it take for black people to be treated as equally as white people when it comes to cannabis possession and other marijuana related crimes?
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