With national laws minimizing state punishment for marijuana use and possession, some would think the number of minority incarcerations would decrease with more weed-friendly laws. New studies show, however, that people of color are still targets for police at an even higher rate.
A study out of the ACLU of California and Drug Policy Alliance found that African Americans were arrested five times more than whites, with Latinos cited to be 29% more likely to be arrested than blacks, and 43% more likely to be arrested than whites.
In 2011, California eased the state’s punishment on possession of one ounce or smaller from a misdemeanor to a $100 fine. In 2015, Washington D.C. passed a law stating that a person of the legal age of 21 or older is allowed to possess two ounces of marijuana or less on private property.
In a similar study done by Mike Males, senior fellow at the Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Males found that while five states, including California, did ease up on marijuana laws, resulting in a decrease in arrests, racial disparities still existed. The study showed that in Massachusetts, the number of blacks arrested increased for marijuana-related arrests.
Dr. Amanda Reiman, Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Alliance, argued that changing marijuana laws is not enough to decrease the amount of blacks arrested in marijuana-related arrests.
“[An officer] will say, ‘I’m not a racist person, but there’s a psychological clutter in policing that started decades ago that perpetuates this idea that people of color are not to be trusted…even among officers of color. Until we really get down to what’s going on psychologically, these disparities will continue.”
Despite the racial disparities in arrests, the use of illegal drugs among African Americans, Latinos and whites remains at about the same rate.