Black Coloradans still twice as likely to get busted for pot |

Black Coloradans still twice as likely to get busted for pot

Biennial report on Colorado cannabis spotlights public safety, health, driving and youth consumption

Sam Tabachnik
The Denver Post
Different marijuana strains sit on the counter for patients to examine Monday at the Sweet Leaf Pioneer dispensery in Eagle.
Dominique Taylor / Vail Daily file photo

Seven years after the first recreational pot shops opened for business in Colorado, youth aren’t smoking more weed, older adults are blazing more and marijuana-related arrests are way down — but Black Coloradans are still much more likely to get in trouble for cannabis offenses, according to a state report released Monday.

The biennial report — “Impacts on Marijuana Legalization in Colorado,” commissioned by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice — is the most extensive look since 2018 at marijuana’s impact across public safety, health, driving and youth consumption.

Overall, the authors highlight a few notable trends in the way cannabis is being consumed in Colorado: People are moving away from smoking and instead are consuming cannabis through vapes and edibles at higher rates.

But even as fewer people across the board are being arrested on marijuana possession and other weed-related crimes, the marijuana arrest rate for Black individuals (160 per 100,000 people) is more than double that of white residents (76 per 100,000) in Colorado.

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Here are highlights from the Colorado report across various sectors:

Public safety

Marijuana-related arrests have plummeted since legalization, dropping 68% between 2012 and 2019 (13,225 to 4,290). That steep decline has come across all races and ethnicities, though not uniformly — 72% for white individuals, 55% among Hispanics, and a 63% decrease for Black Coloradans.

Court case filings related to pot declined 55% between 2012 and 2019

Plant seizures on public lands — one indicator of the illicit weed market — have fluctuated wildly since 2012. That year, authorities seized 46,662 pot plants. In 2017, that number rocketed to 80,826, but has since dropped back to a low of 1,502 in 2018.


Men (22.9%) are using marijuana significantly more than women (15.1%)

Treatment admissions for those reporting marijuana as their primary substance have gone down to 182 admissions per 100,000 people in 2019 from 222 admissions in 2012

The number of calls to poison control mentioning marijuana exposure has jumped to 276 in 2019 from 41 calls in 2006

Youth impacts

A 2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found no significant change in youth marijuana usage between 2013 and 2019, mirroring similar findings in a national survey on drug use

Marijuana use increased as teens aged — with 12th graders (27%) using cannabis at more than double the rate of ninth graders (13.3%)

Nearly three-quarters (73.5%) of youth ages 10 to 17 in treatment for substance use reported marijuana as their primary substance of use

Marijuana infractions accounted for 30% of all school expulsions and 34% of all law enforcement referrals in Colorado public schools, 2019-2020 school discipline data shows


Authors included the caveat that law enforcement officers trained in recognizing drug use jumped to 221 in 2020, up from 129 in 2012, which “can increase drug detection rates apart from any changes in driver behavior”

DUI summonses issued by the Colorado State Patrol in which marijuana was recorded increased by 120% between 2014 and 2020 (684 to 1,504)