Report: Arrests For Marijuana Disproportionally Affect Blacks, Latinos And Native Americans

Oct 11, 2012

A new study by Marijuana Arrest Research Project says more than 240,000 people in Washington have been arrested for marijuana possession over the past 25 years, and that those arrested are disproportionally Black, Latino and Native American.

The New York-based group analyzed crime data from the FBI. The reports co-author Harry Levine is a sociology professor at City University of New York. He says the report found that in Washington Blacks were arrested at nearly three times the rate of whites. Latinos and Native Americans were arrested at one and a half times the rate of whites.

Levine says these numbers are striking since analysis of government studies show that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than either group. Levine explained, "White upper-middle class people by and large do not get arrested for this offense. White upper-middle class people do not get fines for this offense but others do, and that is blatantly unjust and unfair."

Levine estimates that in the past 10 years arrests for marijuana possession cost Washington more than $194 million in police and court costs.

The timing of Levine’s study is no accident. Washington is one of three states considering Marijuana reform.

Initiative 502 would let adults over 21 buy taxed, inspected marijuana at state-licensed shops. Some police officials worry about increasing the availability of pot, especially for teens.