According to two recent studies, scientists are suggesting that people of color are still being arrested at a disproportionate rate for marijuana-related offenses; this is despite cannabis legalization.
Published in the journal Nature Human Behaviors, the first study was conducted by a team of scientists from Stanford University and New York University.
The second analysis was conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, many Americans are finally realizing the true extent of racial disparities in the United States justice system.
Recreational cannabis is now legal for adult use in 11 states, and 33 states have established medical marijuana programs for eligible patients.
Right now, many Americans are sitting in jail or prison for non-violent low-level marijuana-related crimes that are mere tourist attractions in adjacent states. Many of them are facing serious time.
In fact, a Pew Research poll taken in September of 2019 found that approximately two-thirds of Americans believe that recreational marijuana should be legalized, once and for all, across the board.
When you factor in those who favor decriminalization, as opposed to outright legalization, that number rises even higher.
So why are minority communities still being targeted for cannabis possession and consumption?
The answer, according to the study, lies in the implicit racial bias built into our criminal justice system.
According to the first paper’s abstract, or summary, the “results indicate[d] that police stops and search decisions suffer from persistent racial bias and point to the value of policy interventions to mitigate these disparities.”
The summary of the ACLU report states that “Black people are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in every state, including those that have legalized marijuana. With detailed recommendations for governments and law enforcement agencies, this report provides a detailed road map for ending the War on Marijuana and ensuring legalization efforts center [on] racial justice.”
In both studies, researchers found that, despite the legalization of cannabis in many states, the disproportionate arrests of people of color for marijuana-related offenses continue to this day.
That isn’t to say that marijuana-related arrests haven’t decreased as a result of legalization: they have.
Overall, in states like Colorado and Washington, marijuana-related arrests have been on a sharp decline since lawmakers enacted legislation to remove the criminal penalty for cannabis use and possession.
Despite those gains, however, when you look closely at those who are still being arrested for marijuana-related offenses, a disproportionate number of those arrests are of minority populations and people of color.
You can read the first study for yourself in its entirety here. The detailed 2020 ACLU analysis report, titled “A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform,” can be found here.