Legal weed’s first year in Chicago: High arrest rates for Black people, a boutique experience for others

By April 18, 2021 Recent News

Chicago Tribune 15 April 2021
Three times the number of African Americans were arrested for marijuana-related offenses in Chicago than other ethnicities combined in 2020, according to Chicago Police Department arrest totals retrieved under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The arrest figures are only the latest sign of disparity in the state’s fledgling marijuana industry.

Critics point out what they see as a troubling double standard: At the same time the state’s legal weed industry is making millions and white smokers are enjoying the boutique experience with designer weed in clean, fashionable North Side dispensaries, Black and brown people are left out of the windfall and continue to be arrested for selling weed illegally.

During the first year of marijuana legalization, Black people led all ethnic groups in arrests with 2,311, making up more than three-quarters of all marijuana arrests in Chicago. Latinos made up the second highest number of arrests with 506.

Whites made up about 4% of arrests in Chicago, with 117 arrests across the city for the entire year. Asians and Pacific Islanders made up fewer than 1% with just 25 arrests.