Marijuana

Marijuana Charges Fall Dramatically in Colorado After (and Before) Legalization

Cops seem to have sharply reduced pot charges in response to shifting public opinion.

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A new report from the Drug Policy Alliance shows that, as you would expect, marijuana arrests have fallen sharply in Colorado since voters approved legalization in 2012. According to data collected by Jon Gettman, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Shenandoah University, the number of marijuana cases in Colorado courts fell by 84 percent, from 9,864 in 2012 to 1,536 in 2014. The total number of marijuana charges in state courts fell by 80 percent during the same period, from 10,327 in 2012 to 2,036 in 2014. Possession charges accounted for most of that drop, but cultivation and distribution charges also fell dramatically, by 78 percent and 98 percent, respectively. Distribution accounted for 9 percent of charges in 2012 but only 1 percent in 2014. 

"The reduction in the number of offenses reflects a change in the nature of marijuana possession offenses in which the offense is now characterized by possession of amounts in excess of the one ounce allowed outside the home by law," Gettman writes. "The change in the composition of arrests demonstrates the extent to which legal distribution has replaced illicit distribution."

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Intriguingly, the downward trend in marijuana charges predates Amendment 64, Colorado's legalization measure. In fact, the total number of charges fell by 74 percent in a single year, from 39,207 in 2011 to 10,327 in 2012. "The sharp drop between 2011 and 2012 is interesting," Gettman tells me. "I think this is a 'see the writing on the wall' situation, where it was clear that public support for legalization was strong and growing, and that change was imminent. My theory is that enforcement policies began to self-adjust [in response] to changes in public opinion….It may also be that less enforcement in Colorado was a way for police to suggest that legalization was not needed."

The news is not all good. Gettman notes that racial disparities in marijuana enforcement persist in Colorado. Based on data from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Census Bureau, he calculates that blacks were 2.4 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses in 2014—exactly the same as the ratio in 2010.

NEXT: John Stossel on Gentrification

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  1. It’s almost as if the police used to bust people for pot because it was easy and a source of “hey look at all the arrests we make” and a source of revenue as well. Not because pot smokers or dealers actually posed any danger or anything. Imagine that.

  2. THE CRIME WUZ GENTRIFIED

  3. The cops look at the graph and think, “I liked it a lot better when the bitch had her legs spread wide open.”

    1. Why so flat in 2010 and 2011? Almost like there was a quota or something.

      1. You know who else had quotas?

        1. The Kessle Minerals Extraction Consortium?

        2. OPEC?

        3. The USDA Sugar Import Program?

  4. OT: nothing ever changes, does it?

    In Sweden, which many view as the Mecca of liberalism, the happiest, fairest nation in Europe, a man was recently released from a six-month prison sentence for producing offensive art.

    His name is Dan Parks. He’s a painter. He does paintings which he says are designed to challenge political correctness and to rattle the authorities. And they can certainly be described as offensive and racist works. For this, he was sent to jail for six months at the end of last year and his artworks were destroyed by the Swedish state.

    1. a man was recently released from a six-month prison sentence for producing offensive art.

      You can get released if you produce offensive art? Good on him.

      1. good behavior and/or offensive art. oh, and get out of jail free cards. (only authentic licensed cards from retail Monoply boxes)

    2. To be fair, prison in Scandanavia is more like a vacation than the rape camps we’ve created.

    3. Priceless. The exasperation and amazement in the potato-eater’s voice when Brendan says that it would be all right to say anti-Semitic things is…something.

  5. he calculates that blacks were 2.4 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses in 2014?exactly the same as the ratio in 2010.

    Maybe blacks are 2.4 times as likely to smoke pot in public.

    1. You’re reliable, I’ll give you that.

      1. Surely, Warty, you remember the time when a whole bunch of Black people got together on a muddy farmer’s field in upstate NY to listen to music and smoke pot. Naked.

        1. Warty has a summer home?

        2. It’s basic logic that a simple statistical disparity doesn’t necessarily prove racial discrimination. There could be other factors. I would say that, averaged over the last several decades, I’ve seen blacks smoke pot in public more often than whites.

          I’ve never seen anyone say that blacks get busted for pot at outdoor music festivals and such, while whites are ignored. I’m talking about things like smoking while standing on a street corner, or smoking on a bus or train. Those are things more likely to get you busted, and it seems like blacks do those things more often.

          1. I’ve seen blacks smoke pot in public more often than whites.

            What you’ve seen doesn’t hold a candle to actual data, and the actual data is clear that blacks and whites smoke pot at equal rates.

            1. Blacks live in more densely populated areas, on average. When your old lady says “Take it outside” there are more eyes and noses that notice. Cops, too.

            2. the actual data is clear that blacks and whites smoke pot at equal rates.

              What does that have to do with doing it in public view? Oh yeah. Nothing.

          2. I’ve seen blacks smoke pot in public more often than whites.

            Same here. Heck, the only time I’ve ever smoked the stuff in public was when black guys passed me a joint. First time I was quite shocked, since doing illegal things in public has always struck me as rather unwise.

            1. doing illegal things in public has always struck me as rather unwise.

              White people, *bemused head shake*

  6. That’s 8,000 people/year in CO whose lives won’t be harmed by a drug arrest. Plus many thousands more who can now freely choose marijuana as a far less-harmful and less-addictive alternative to alcohol. If reducing harm in society is our goal then ending the federal marijuana prohibition should be very top of the list!

  7. Ya but what about the growing piles of dead kittens and unicorns, not to mention all of the head injuries from cranial to falling cloud impacts

  8. I hope everyone knows, this means..
    Lawyers were probably denied some 8.5 million in fees,
    Police were denied some 8.5 million in overtime,
    counseling centers were denied some 8.5 million in fees.

    Think of the unemployed and underemployed people this law is creating!

    Seriously, how many individuals went to work because they weren’t going to lawyers, counseling and watching Police officers give testimony. We need to hear if any drop in alcohol consumption as happened, that’s where huge saving would happen.

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