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According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Colorado has the lowest disproportionate rate when you compare marijuana arrests for whites and blacks in the country, but it’s still far from being the same.
The most recent report from the ACLU examines the arrests of whites and blacks for marijuana possession from 2010 to 2018, gathers data across the country and compares statistics for 100,000 people each. The bottom line? Black people were about four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.
Montana and Kentucky had different rates: over nine blacks were arrested for possession of marijuana for every white person. (This ratio is especially astounding for Montana, which has a tiny African American population.) Illinois, West Virginia, and Iowa all had arrest ratios above seven to one, according to the report. (Florida and Washington, DC were not included in the report.)
“Law enforcement continues to conduct hundreds of thousands of marijuana possession arrests each year, accounting for nearly half of all drug arrests across the country. Although marijuana possession arrest rates in 2018 were nationally lower than in 2010, the first drop was the first part of Das Decade seems to have stagnated or even reversed, “the report says. “In 2018, unchanged from 2010, blacks were still almost four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar usage rates.”
Colorado’s comparison of black and white arrests for marijuana possession was the most balanced of the 49 states on the list, but even that wasn’t good: between 2010 and 2018, nearly twice as many blacks were arrested as white, or one black person every .54 percent white person. (In a 2018 survey, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division found that blacks owned approximately 2 percent of the state’s marijuana business licenses.)
Weed smoking, while black is particularly dangerous in West Virginia, Wyoming, and South Dakota, the ACLU notes, where between 2.15 and 0.71 compared to whites faced with an arrest rate of 0.44 to 0.71 2.68 percent of blacks are arrested for marijuana possession in the same states.
“While overall arrest rates and the extent of racial arrests varied between states, blacks were more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in each state,” the report said.
States that legalized marijuana early on – Colorado, Alaska, California, Oregon, and Washington – were in the bottom ten countries because of racial differences, according to the ACLU. But Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and California actually saw an initial spike in racial disparities after legalization, the data shows, although Colorado and Alaska have since seen a decline to lower numbers than in pre-legalization years.
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Thomas Mitchell has been writing about everything cannabis-related for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate, and general news en route to publications like the Republic of Arizona, Inman, and Fox Sports. He is currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.