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Even Legalization Doesn't Help Minority Teens Dodge Weed Charges

Black and Latino teens seeing increased arrests in Colorado.

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Black and Latino adolescents in Colorado are being arrested at an even more alarming rate than before the state legalized recreational marijuana, while White teens have seen a decrease. This is according to a new report from the Colorado Department of Public Safety that found that African-American arrests increased by 58%, while Hispanic arrests increased by 29% from 2012 to 2014. White teens saw an 8% decrease over this time period, which is significantly less compared to minorities.

Colorado passed an initiative legalizing recreational cannabis in 2012, but the first full year the state allowed 21 and over to purchase marijuana wasn’t until 2014. From 2012 to 2014 the Colorado elementary and secondary schools saw a 34% increase in marijuana arrests, but most were for possession which doesn’t carry any jail time. The student must simply pay a fine, and to get the arrest expunged from their record they must pay and participate in drug education courses.

Tustin Amole, the Director of Communications at Cherry Creek Schools in Arapahoe County, told Buzzfeed News that while her district decides how to handle marijuana offenses on a case-by-case basis, she felt the students who are being arrested accurately reflect which students are smoking pot.

This trend is also being seen in states that have recently legalized recreational marijuana. There has been a drop in overall arrests, but an increase in racial disparities among those still being arrested. With more states closing in on legalizing marijuana, and racial tension still running high in some states, we can only hope that there is some resolution in the future.