CRIMINAL OFFENCE RATES
As pro-marijuana lobbyists argue that marijuana legalisation will increase social justice, disparities among use and criminal offense rates continue among race, ethnicity, and income levels in US states that have legalised marijuana. The District of Columbia saw public consumption and distribution arrests nearly triple between the years 2015 and 2016, and a disproportionate number of those marijuana-related arrests occur among African-Americans. Colorado has seen a similar trend. Colorado marijuana arrests for young African-American and Hispanic youth have increased since legalisation.
The reason? According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, black and Hispanic youth are slightly more likely to use marijuana than their white counterparts: About 17% of white high school students reportedly used pot in the previous 30 days, while 25.9% of black students and 23.6% of Hispanic students did.
In a similar trend to alcohol outlets and pokie machine venues in New Zealand, communities of colour are being subjected to disproportionate targeting by marijuana facilities in the US. In Los Angeles, the majority of dispensaries have opened primarily in African-American communities.
An overlay of socioeconomic data with the geographic location of pot shops in Denver, Colorado shows marijuana stores are located primarily in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Those with a household income below $25,000 had a 20% current-use rate compared to a 11% rate among households with income levels of $50,000 or greater.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 28% of women living in low-income areas tested positive for marijuana use during pregnancy. Another study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported that young women from lower income levels have a 15–28% rate of marijuana use during pregnancy. Up to 60% of these young women continue marijuana use throughout pregnancy due to a decreased perception of risk and stigma.
It is argued that the easy availability of marijuana after legalisation also appears to have a possible link to Colorado’s growing homeless population. While overall U.S. homelessness decreased between 2013 and 2014 as the country moved out of the recession, Colorado was one of 17 states that saw homeless numbers increase during that time. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was also when Colorado legalised “recreational-use” marijuana and allowed retail sales to begin. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported a 13% increase in Colorado’s homeless population from 2015 and 2016. The rate of homelessness among Colorado children has increased 50%.
Business owners and officials in Durango, Colorado, testify that the resort town “suddenly became a haven for recreational pot users, drawing in transients, panhandlers, and a large number of homeless drug addicts.”
An Australian mother who chronicled the downward spiral of her 25-year-old drug-addicted son has received overwhelming praise for exposing the harsh reality of “human misery”. “His family says Dan had a privileged upbringing; he was raised with a private education and grew up to travel overseas and gain full-time employment. It was when Dan began dabbling in marijuana with his “peers”, that his life seemed to go downhill.