After Colorado legalized marijuana, arrests fell for white kids — but rose for black kids

By May 13, 2016 Recent News 11 May 2016
Now that recreational marijuana has become legal in Colorado, not all the kids are all right. Specifically, black kids are actually more likely to be arrested over pot after legalization — while their white counterparts are less likely to be arrested.

A new report by the Colorado Department of Public Safety has the details: For white kids ages 10 to 17, the marijuana arrest rate fell by 9 percent between 2012, the last year in which pot was illegal in Colorado, and 2014, the first year of legal pot sales. For black kids of the same age, arrests went up by 52 percent. And for Hispanic kids, arrests rose by 22 percent — although they remained less likely to be arrested for pot than their white or black counterparts. Most arrests were for possession.marijuana black hispanic youths arrest rates 2016

According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, black and Hispanic kids are slightly more likely to use marijuana than their white counterparts: About 17 percent of white high school students reportedly used pot in the previous 30 days, while 25.9 percent of black students and 23.6 percent of Hispanic students did.

Even so, the disparities in arrests are so massive that the differences in use rates don’t explain the full difference in arrest rates: Although black students are 1.5 times as likely to use pot, they’re 2.2 times as likely to be arrested for the drug.

In 2012, Colorado voters legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older. While this left pot illegal for anyone under 21, it was expected that cops would spend less time enforcing marijuana laws in general — but enforcement varies vastly at the local level and, apparently, on the basis of race.
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