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  • Marijuana plant in a Colorado store.

    Marijuana plant in a Colorado store. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 May 2016

Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, arrests for Black youth have gone up 58 percent.

A report by the Colorado Department of Public Safety showed that in the time since cannabis became legal in the state, Black youth are more likely to be arrested over marijuana than whites or Hispanics (Latinos) of the same age group.

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The report compared different groups in the juvenile age bracket of 10 to 17 years old and their arrest rates for cannabis. For African-Americans in the juvenile bracket, from 2012 to 2014 arrest rates increased by 58 percent. For white juveniles, arrest rates went down by 8 percent and for Hispanics, arrests decreased by 2 percent.

Black and Hispanic youth were found to be more likely to use marijuana than whites, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In the last 20 days, 25.9 percent of Blacks reported use, compared to 23.6 of Hispanics and about 17 percent of whites.

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Despite a difference in reported rates of use, it cannot fully explain the massive imbalance in arrest rates affecting Black youth. Indeed, the data showed that there were racial disparities across adult arrest rates as well, with the arrest rate for Blacks almost 3 times as high as whites.

Youth arrests for marijuana do not usually lead to jail time, but instead a fine and an education program required for the person to clear their record. Marijuana is legal in Colorado for those over the age of 21.

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