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New state report finds marijuana arrests are down, but Black Coloradans are still arrested twice as much

Posted at 10:36 AM, Jul 21, 2021

COLORADO - A new state report found marijuana arrests are down, but Black Coloradans are still twice as likely to get arrested for marijuana-related offenses compared to white Coloradans.

The "Impacts on Marijuana Legalization in Colorado" report that the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice commissioned is the most comprehensive look at marijuana's impact on public safety, consumption, and health since 2018.

The report shows marijuana arrests decreased by 68% between 2012 and 2019. Marijuana possession arrests were cut in half but the marijuana arrest rate for Black Coloradans was double that of white Coloradans.

“What we have to deal with is the over policing of the Black community,” Colorado Black Round Table Chair John Bailey said.

Bailey said the issue is larger than marijuana, it's rooted in the disproportionate enforcement of the law.

“This report doesn’t tell me anything new...I think it’s disingenuous to try highlight this as though there’s an increase in public safety issues related to marijuana issue,” Bailey said.

Bailey said he appreciates some of the things that Colorado is doing to address these issues like expunging criminal records for low-level marijuana offenses.

Since the 2012 passing of Amendment 64 which legalizes recreational marijuana, marijuana-related convictions can still impact an individuals chance at getting a job, renting a home, and even parental rights during a divorce.

In October 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis pardoned more than 2,732 people with convictions for possession under one ounce of marijuana and is expected to issue more pardons.

In late April of this year, the Colorado legislature approved a house bill that increased the legal amount of recreational marijuana possession to 2 ounces.

But Bailey said more can be done when it comes to how laws are enforced.

“I am not a proponent of defund the police, I am a proponent of retrain,” Bailey said. “If you look at the police cars it says to serve and protect, to serve and protect whom? The community, the town, so if they're there to serve and protect lets hold them to a different accountability similar to the ones that we hold doctors, nurses, and teachers to.”

Bailey also said to address over policing there should be an expansion of Denver’s STAR program which dispatches mental health professionals to non-criminal emergency calls.