Marijuana Arrests in Colorado Have Disproportionate Effect on Minorities
November 15, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Colorado residents may be surprised by the disturbing results of a new report by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project (MARP). The report is based on FBI Uniform Crime Report data and is the first to offer insight into the racial breakdown of arrests for marijuana possession in Colorado.

Report data shows that from 1986-2010 there were 210,000 marijuana possession arrests in Colorado. It goes on to reveal that among these arrests, people of color are disproportionately impacted.

Details of the MARP report

Latinos are the most significantly affected by Colorado's marijuana laws. They are arrested at a 50 percent higher rate than whites. African-Americans, who are arrested at a rate three times higher than whites, are also adversely affected.

These two minority groups actually use marijuana at a lower rate than whites. However, African-Americans, who make up only 3.8 percent of Colorado's population, account for 10.5 percent of the marijuana possession arrests. Similarly, Latinos, who make up only nine percent of the state's residents, account for a quarter of arrests for marijuana possession.

Arrests for marijuana possession continue to increase both in Colorado and nationally. In 1986, only 4,000 arrests were reported in Colorado. This number rose to more than 10,000 in 2010. From 1986 to 1990 only slightly over 19,000 arrests were made. This number was over 55,000 between 2006 and 2010.

Nationally, over 750,000 marijuana possession arrests were reported overall. Over 87 percent of these were for simple possession. In 2011, marijuana arrests made up slightly less than half of all drug crimes.

Some say these numbers demonstrate that law enforcement efforts have made minimal difference in the availability and use of marijuana. They feel the fight against marijuana usage is futile; especially considering marijuana is generally believed to be safer than alcohol.

Colorado's new marijuana law

On November 6, 2012, voters in Colorado enacted a new marijuana law, making it legal to possess and smoke pot recreationally. However, as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper cautioned residents: "Don't break out the Cheetos or the Goldfish too quickly." The new law won't be officially on the books for another month, and the rules and regulations necessary to implement the law will take even longer to draft. Until then, possession of marijuana without a prescription is still a crime in Colorado.

Punishments for marijuana possession

Punishments for marijuana possession range from a $100 fine in county court to over $300 in municipal court. Judges may also impose a jail sentence, charge probation fees or require regular drug testing. Furthermore, failure to appear in court on a charge of marijuana possession can result in six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Criminal records are widely accessible on the Internet. This makes it easy for employers, landlords or banks to find them and discriminate against people with records in areas such as housing, employment and education.

This is a harsh result, considering data has shown arrests for marijuana possession do not deter the commission of serious crimes. Marijuana arrests also distract police from dealing with other dangerous crimes.

A person arrested for possession of marijuana can benefit from having an experienced criminal defense attorney on his or her side. A criminal defense lawyer can provide the necessary guidance a person face a drug charge needs.

Article provided by Anaya, Foley & McKedy, P.C.
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