07.01.2016
policy

Black Kids Busted More Than White Kids for Weed in Colorado

This is a problem.

Since weed became legal for Colorado adults, Mile High State teens have been dominating the state’s marijuana-related arrest rates. According to a Colorado Department of Public Safety report, these days "nearly half of all marijuana arrests are juveniles, compared to 25 percent in 2012."

This ratio makes sense. The state's adults aren’t eligible for simple possession arrests anymore. Where it gets weird in Colorado is that black and Latino kids, of course, are being arrested at a rate higher than their white friends. 

From NPR:

"A Colorado Health Department survey found there wasn't a huge racial difference in who smokes pot. But the marijuana arrest rate for white 10- to 17-year-olds fell by nearly 10 percent from 2012 to 2014, while arrest rates for Latino and black youths respectively rose more than 20 percent and more than 50 percent."

But why?

“Most of these cases are complaint-driven,” Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson told Colorado Public Radio. “We get a complaint from someone, we’re not sure where it’s going to take us, but we have to act on it, and we’re not sure if I get a call to a residence or to a location who I’m going to encounter until I get there." 

Image via Colorado Public Radio

Jackson told CPR that marijuana arrests for anyone are a low priority for Denver PD. The statistical rationale for why those arrests are dominated by teens of color is that police are called more often into neighborhoods where those teens live, as opposed to being called into white communities, which tends to expose youthful black and Latino pot smokers to a greater law-enforcement presence. Hence, greater opportunities for arrest.

It’s bad enough that legal weed profits everywhere are still made mostly by white people. The state of Colorado should be happy that fewer of its kids than ever are lighting up. So it's really time to shake off the racial disparities imposed by enforcement of America’s long and harmful War on Drugs.

 

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