A new report released in March by the Colorado Department of Public Safety that says black and Latino teens are being arrested for marijuana at disproportionately higher rates than their white counterparts.
The report found a huge gap in numbers in relation to how adolescents, ages 10-17 were being in arrested, which apparently was contingent upon their race. While there was an eight percent decrease in arrest of white kids for marijuana from 2012-2014, black juvenile arrests shot up by 58 percent, and Latino arrests followed that increase by 29 percent.
In 2012, Colorado’s constituents passed an initiative that legalized recreational marijuana for those who are 21 and over. The year was used in the report to mark the state’s pre-legalization era. The first full year that weed was legalized for leisure and on the market was 2014.
In total, between 2012 and 2014, Colorado elementary and high schools had a 34 percent increase in arrest. Most of these arrests were for possession of the substance—done by “school resource officers.” The repercussions for these arrests do not include jail time, but minors are made to pay a fine to get the charge removed from their records, plus pay for a drug education class.
The majority of these arrests happened in 10 counties. Reportedly, each county had over 100 arrests for the substance in 2014. The other 50 or so counties had about 25 arrest each. The report examined the schools with prevalent rates of suspension, expelling and arrests for marijuana related offenses, and here’s what they found: “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 percent higher than schools with the lowest proportion of minorities.”
Still, laws encompassing under-aged marijuana use vary by county, which is not dependent on how widespread smoking weed is at any school.
A survey done by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2013, found that Pueblo County has the highest rates of adolescent marijuana abuse in the state—32.1 percent of high school kids. Yet only five teens were arrested there. In comparison to Arapahoe County, which had an average rate of 20.6 percent of high school marijuana use, yet nearly 400 students were arrested for using the substance. See the difference?
“We don’t really have zero tolerance policies, because there are so many variations and circumstances. You have to take them all into account,” Director of Communications at Cherry Creek Schools in Arapahoe County, Tustin Amole told BuzzFeed News. “All I can say is while it may seem disproportionate, those are the students we’re catching with the drugs.”
Yet, black minors aren’t the only ones being punished at disproportionate rates. Black adults in the state are also affected at alarming rates. In 2014, black adults were arrested at almost triple the number of whites. And in 2012, blacks were arrested for weed related crimes nearly double the rate as white people were.
The problem also exists in other states and cities that have approved the recreational use of marijuana, like Chicago, Massachusetts and Washington state. They too have a seen an increase in arrests, a pool of minority offenders that only deepens.