Teen Marijuana Arrests in Colorado Disproportionately Affect Black Students


The gap between marijuana-related arrests for minority and white Coloradan teens aged 10 to 17 years old has only widened since the state legalized the drug in 2014, a report by the Colorado Department of Public Safety, released in March, found. Marijuana has been legal in Colorado for over two years for adults 21 and older. 

The report found that from 2012 to 2014, the overall number of "juvenile marijuana arrests" in elementary and secondary schools increased by 34%. However, there's a racial disparity among those arrested: The rate for white students actually decreased by 8%, while the rate increased by 58% for blacks and 29% for Latinos.

Most of the offenses were related to possession, which resulted in a fine and drug education course rather than jail time, BuzzFeed reported.

The report also found that the schools with the smallest proportion of minority students had the lowest rates of suspending students who were caught with a marijuana offense. 

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Each school and county has its own set of rules when it comes to dealing with juveniles and marijuana. For example, most of the arrests were done by "school resource officers" stationed on campus. 

"All I can say is while it may seem disproportionate, those are the students we're catching with the drugs," Tustin Amole, the director of communications at Cherry Creek Schools, told BuzzFeed.

In 2013, a survey by the Colorado of Public Health and Environment found that 25.9% of black, 23.6% of Latino, and 17% of white high school students had used marijuana within 30 days of the survey's conduction, BuzzFeed reported. So while less white students reported using marijuana, these rates still fail to align with the rates of arrests. 

This discrepancy amongst youngsters echoes a larger one to that of the state — and also nation. In 2012, the number of black Coloradans arrested for marijuana crimes was just about double that of whites. By 2014, it was triple. 

Read more: A Major Problem With Colorado's Marijuana Economy Emerged After Weed Went Legal