Even as various stakeholders push for marijuana legalization across the US, new studies reveal that people of colour remain disproportionately targeted for marijuana-related offences as opposed to their white counterparts.
Minorities unequally targeted
According to reports published by the American Civil Liberties Union and a group of researchers from Stanford University and New York University respectively, minorities do not reap the benefits of legalization, as they are more likely to be searched and arrested for the marijuana-related offences. The researchers arrived at this conclusion after analyzing diverse sets of police data and their findings published earlier last month.
The report comprised data from 100 million traffic stops performed by more than fifty state patrol agencies and municipal police departments across the country between 2011 and 2018. The researchers also focused on data from Washington and Colorado to weigh the effects of cannabis legalization.
According to the analysis, police were less likely to conduct searches for contraband during traffic stops in states where recreational marijuana was legal. Besides, the portion of stops that led to a drug-related violation or crime fell largely on Colorado and Washington after cannabis legalization in those states.
However, while vehicle searches reduced significantly in the two states, the report still found some evidence of racial profiling. More black and Hispanic drivers went through police searches in Washington and Colorado, compared to their white counterparts in the same states.
We found that white drivers faced consistently higher search thresholds than minority drivers, both before and after marijuana legalization. The data thus suggest that, although overall search rates dropped in Washington and Colorado, black and Hispanic drivers still faced discrimination in search decisions, the researchers wrote.
The need for more reform on racial justice and social equity
In a similar report released by the ACLU in April, the organization found that blacks were more likely to be arrested by police for marijuana possession than their counterparts with similar offences.
According to the report, the average chance of a black person being arrested for marijuana possession was 3.64 times more than that of a white person. The report was based on an analysis of national arrest data between 2010 and 2018. During that period, the police conducted 6.1 million marijuana-related offences. In Colorado alone, where 5% of the population is Black or African American, the chances of arresting a black person for possession were 1.5 times more than that of a white individual.
With these reports in place, there is a need for inclusive reform that borders on racial justice and social equity. These have been hot topics especially in Colorado, as legislators and advocates seek to expunge low-level marijuana convictions and “promote diversity in new facets of the industry.”