Weed Arrests Have Increased for Black and Latino Teens in Colorado

Illustration for article titled Weed Arrests Have Increased for Black and Latino Teens in Colorado

Colorado’s legalized marijuana laws have been predictably fruitful for white entrepreneurs, but reports confirm it’s made black and Latino teens even bigger targets of weed-related arrests.


In an NPR report, Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson says marijuana arrests among adults declined by half, post-legalization. In tandem, however, minority teens are the subjects of more arrests and complaints about illegal weed sales than before:

It’s still illegal for kids to possess, so juveniles are coming to dominate the marijuana arrests in Colorado. But another startling trend also has developed: Arrest rates have risen dramatically for young blacks and Latinos.

The numbers indicate a calculable trend in America where updated laws disparagingly benefit the privileged. Reports point to the large disparity in the demographic of weed smokers (a.k.a. everybody) versus weed arrests:

A Colorado Health Department survey found there wasn’t a huge racial difference in who smokes pot. But the marijuana arrest rate for white 10- to 17-year-olds fell by nearly 10 percent from 2012 to 2014, while arrest rates for Latino and black youths respectively rose more than 20 percent and more than 50 percent.

At a local courthouse, Ricky Montoya—who was hit with a $1,000 fine for weed possession for a third time—told NPR, “[Police] probably look at us more different. I don’t think they think that white people would smoke as much as we do.”

The entrepreneurial gap doesn’t help either. All the legal pot businesses currently flourishing in Colorado and across the country have only widened the ownership disparity between white people and everyone else; black people own just 1% of weed dispensaries in the U.S.


Jackson, the Denver police rep, says of the trend, “Most of these cases are complaint-driven. We get a complaint from someone, we’re not sure where it’s going to take us, but we have to act on it. And we’re not sure, if I get a call to a residence or to a location, who I’m going to encounter until I get there.”


Image via Getty

Culture Editor, Jezebel



Well weed might be legal, but being brown/black still isn’t.