Colorado: Marijuana Arrests Down For White Teens, Up For Black And Latino Teens


By Buzz Feed News

Black and Latino adolescents in Colorado are being arrested for marijuana offenses at more disproportionate rates than they were before the state legalized recreational use of the drug, according to a new report from the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

The report, released in March, found a striking racial disparity in how adolescents aged 10–17 are being arrested: White juvenile marijuana arrests decreased by 8% between 2012 and 2014, while black juvenile arrests increased by 58% and Latino juvenile arrests increased 29%.

Colorado voters passed an initiative legalizing recreational marijuana use in 2012 — the year is used in the report to represent pre-legalization. The first full year that the state’s 21-and-older recreational marijuana market was operational was 2014.

Between 2012 and 2014, Colorado elementary and secondary schools saw a 34% increase in marijuana arrests, the overwhelming majority of which were for possession. These arrests were often done by “school resource officers” — local police officers who have increasingly been stationed on campuses in recent years. Although most of these juvenile arrests do not involve jail time, the student must pay a fine and, in order to get the arrest expunged from their permanent record, pay to participate in a drug education class.

The bulk of the juvenile arrests took place in 10 counties, each of which had over 100 marijuana arrests in 2014. The other roughly 50 counties typically had fewer than 25 arrests each. The state report analyzed which schools, specifically, were suspending, expelling, and arresting the most adolescents for marijuana crimes: “The drug suspension rates are lowest in schools with a smaller proportion of minorities … Schools with the highest proportion of minorities have a drug suspension rate 110% higher than schools with the lowest proportion of minorities.”

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