With voters in Colorado about to decide whether or not to legalize marijuana in their state this November, a new report is out looking at the impact the criminalization of marijuana has had on the state. The analysis found that between 1986 and 2010 a total of 210,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession, with more than half of the arrest taking place in the last decade.
One of the most significant findings of the research is that the marijuana possession laws in Colorado are still enforced in a very racially biased manner. Despite the fact that young whites in the Colorado are more likely to use marijuana than any other ethnic group, African Americans and Latino made up a disproportionate percentage of those arrested for marijuana possession. A Latino is 1.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, while an African-American is more then three as likely to be arrested as the Caucasian. African-Americans make up less than 4 percent of the state’s population but over 10 percent of the marijuana arrests.
The original push to criminalize marijuana was heavily driven by issues of racism and almost a century later the enforcement of marijuana prohibition continues be extremely racially biased. The so called “war on drugs” throughout its history has disproportionately been a war on minorities.
The racially biased manner in which marijuana prohibition is enforced has started to spur many civil rights organizations to endorse marijuana legalization. It is one of the major reasons why the regional chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People decided to endorse Amendment 64 in Colorado.