Arrests for possessing, growing and distributing pot have dropped significantly in Colorado since the state legalized marijuana in 2012, but black Coloradans are still far more likely to be arrested for such charges than whites. Although the number of overall marijuana arrests has plunged by 95 percent since 2010, the rate of arrests for blacks in the state remains 2.4 times higher than for whites, according to a study released last week by the New York City-based Drug Policy Alliance.
More than 30,000 Coloradans went to court on a marijuana charge in 2010. That number dropped to under 2,000 by 2014, according to the report. Five years ago, Coloradans of color were arrested on marijuana charges at a rate of 851 per 100,000 people, compared to 335 for whites. In 2014, those numbers dipped to 281 for blacks and 116 for whites.
"The overall decrease in arrests, charges and cases is enormously beneficial to communities of color who bore the brunt of marijuana prohibition," Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of the Colorado/Montana/Wyoming NAACP State Conference, said in a statement, according to the Colorado Independent. "However, we are concerned with the rise in disparity for the charge of public consumption and challenge law enforcement to ensure this reality is not discriminatory in any manner."
In the wake of Colorado’s legalization effort, which laid the groundwork for the state’s now-burgeoning retail pot industry, there were still nearly 1,200 people arrested on small-scale possession of less than 2 ounces of pot between January and September 2013, according to U.S. News. Another 6,400 were charged with petty possession. Despite the law allowing anyone 21 or older to possess up to 2 ounces at any given time, confusion over the legislation probably led to continued arrests, experts said.