What about Michigan Marijuana Arrests?
When Colorado legalized marijuana, one of the issues they had hoped would be resolved was the problem of racial disparities in drug-related marijuana arrests. But even now, with pot completely legal throughout their state, the problem of race in drug prosecution persists.
So what does this mean for Michigan? We are a state that appears to be in some ways walking in Colorado’s footsteps. It looks like we are also on the fast track to full legalization of marijuana.
A recent study released by the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, shows that in Colorado a black person is still far more likely to be arrested and charged with a marijuana-related crime than a white person.
The report also shows that pot-related arrests stopped almost entirely after the legalization of small quantities of marijuana. The study tracked drug-related arrests in 64 counties across Colorado for the two years before and after the 2012 marijuana law changes.
According to the results, criminal charges for possession, distribution and cultivation of marijuana dropped from 39,000 to just over 2,000 in that four year span. But what was notable about those arrests was the fact that far more of them were for blacks than whites.
According to Tom Gorman of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, this is not indicative of racism in police. Rather, it is about a host of other social problems that need addressing. “Racial disparities exist in other laws.” he pointed out, “What does that mean? That homicide law, rape laws, weapon laws are racist? There are other factors going on here that we need to address.”
For Michigan, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, our black population is already vastly overrepresented in the prison system. The white population is significantly underrepresented. The question is “why”?
The truth is, there is no single, clear cut, answer. Ask around and you will get a host of different explanations for this phenomena. Some of them may well be factual and some are probably fiction. It can be very hard to separate the truth from the myth in these complex social situations.
Some of the racial disparity may be a byproduct of the vast economic and educational gaps common across much of the nation. It may also be a reflection of the fact that, traditionally, black people tend to be under higher surveillance levels by law enforcement. Perhaps another factor to consider is the problematic issue of social expectations, as they pertain to race.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Michigan struggles with the same problems as Colorado in the future. Or if we are able, finally, to work towards a more integrated and less racially divisive enforcement of our penal code.