With just two weeks remaining before Colorado’s voters decide whether to make marijuana possession legal in their state, a new report — “210,000 Marijuana Arrests In Colorado, 1986-2010” — reveals that more than 200,000 people have been arrested in Colorado since 1986. Police made more than half of those marijuana arrests in just the last 10 years.
The study, based on FBI-UCR crime data, reports that nearly everybody arrested was young. In the last ten years, 86% of the people arrested were 34 years or younger.
In the last decade, Colorado arrested Latinos for marijuana possession at 1.5 times the rate of whites, and arrested blacks at 3.1 times the rate of whites.
But young blacks and Latinos use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.
Latinos are 19% of the Colorado’s residents, but they are 25% of the people arrested for marijuana possession. This is the first study to show arrests of Latinos in Colorado
Other key findings include:
- Police made 108,000 marijuana possession arrests in just the last ten years.
- African Americans and Latinos are less than a quarter (23%) of Colorado’s residents, they made up more than a third (35%) of the people arrested for marijuana possession.
- Marijuana possession arrests in Colorado rose sharply over the past 25 years, from 4,000 in 1986 to 10,500 in 2010, totaling 210,000 arrests.
“U.S government studies consistently find that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young blacks and Latinos. But police in Colorado arrested young Latinos and blacks at higher rates than young whites. These possession arrests fall heavily on the most vulnerable people in Colorado — the young, those with low incomes, and racial minorities — said report co-author Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College, City University of New York.
“Marijuana possession arrests create permanent criminal records easily found on the internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards, and banks. A criminal record for the ‘drug crime’ of marijuana possession creates barriers to employment and education for anyone, including whites and the middle class,” said Loren Siegel, Esq. co-director of the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and one of the report’s authors.
“Marijuana arrests do not reduce serious crimes, create criminal records with often life-long consequences, and take police, from other crime fighting work” said report co-author Jon B. Gettman, a criminal justice professor at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.
The report was prepared by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project which has produced studies of marijuana possession arrests in New York, California, Washington, and major U.S. cities.
The report addresses issues to be affected by the upcoming election, when Colorado voters will decide on an amendment that proposes to legalize possession of marijuana.