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Report Provides Data On Marijuana Arrests In Colorado After Legalization


marijuana arrest prison drug drugsAll eyes are on Colorado to gauge the impact of the country’s first-ever state law to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older.  Since the first retail marijuana stores opened on January 1, 2014, the state has benefitted from a decrease in traffic fatalities, an increase in tax revenue and economic output from retail marijuana sales, and an increase in jobs, while Denver has experienced a decrease in crime rates.

Now, a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance brings another jolt of good news by providing comprehensive data on marijuana arrests in Colorado before and after the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012. The report compiles and analyzes data from the county judicial districts, as well as various law enforcement agencies via the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

The report’s key findings include:

  • Since 2010, marijuana possession charges are down by more than 90%, marijuana cultivation charges are down by 96%, and marijuana distribution charges are down by 99%.
  • The number of marijuana possession charges in Colorado courts has decreased by more than 25,000 since 2010 – from 30,428 in 2010 to just 1,922 in 2014.
  • According to raw data from the NIBRS, drug-related incidents are down 23% since 2010, based on a 53% drop in marijuana-related incidents.
  • In 2010 the top five counties for marijuana possession cases in Colorado were El Paso, Jefferson, Adams, Larimer, and Boulder.  Marijuana possession cases in these counties all dropped by at least 83% from 2010 to 2014.
  • Marijuana distribution charges for young men of color did not increase, to the relief of racial justice advocates wary of a ‘net-widening’ effect following legalization.  The black rate for distribution incidents dropped from 87 per 100,000 in 2012 to 25 per 100,000 in 2014.
  • Racial disparities for still-illegal and mostly petty charges persist for black people when compared to white people, primarily due to the specific increase of charges for public use combined with the disproportionate rates of police contact in communities of color. The marijuana arrest rate for black people in 2014 was 2.4 times higher than the arrest rates for white people, just as it was in 2010.
  • The report also reveals a decline in synthetic marijuana arrests, presumably because people are less likely to use synthetic marijuana when marijuana itself is no longer criminalized.

“It’s heartening to see that tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding Coloradans have been spared the travesty of getting handcuffed or being charged for small amounts of marijuana,” said Art Way, Colorado State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “By focusing on public health rather than criminalization, Colorado is better positioned to address the potential harms of marijuana use, while diminishing many of the worst aspects of the war on drugs.”

“The overall decrease in arrests, charges and cases is enormously beneficial to communities of color who bore the brunt of marijuana prohibition prior to the passage of Amendment 64,” said Rosemary Harris Lytle, Regional Chair of the NAACP.  “However, we are concerned with the rise in disparity for the charge of public consumption and challenge law enforcement to ensure this reality is not discriminatory in any manner.”

“What is often overlooked concerning marijuana legalization is that it is first and foremost a criminal justice reform,” said Denise Maes, Public Policy Director for the ACLU of Colorado. “This report reminds us of how law enforcement and our judiciary are now able to better allocate time and energy for more pressing concerns.”

In January, DPA released Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: One-Year Status Report. It found that since the first retail marijuana stores opened on January 1, 2014, Denver has benefitted from a decrease in crime rates, and the state has shown a decrease in traffic fatalities while increasing tax revenue, economic output and employment opportunities.  Updated data reveals that the first year of legal retail marijuana sales resulted in $52.5 million in tax revenue excluding revenue from licenses, fees and medical marijuana.  Millions are allocated to fund youth education, drug prevention efforts and the improvement of public school infrastructures.  In addition, the state is enjoying economic growth and the lowest unemployment rate in years.

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation


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Johnny Green


  1. mikeysoundtrack on

    That’s why it’s so important to know well your constitutional rights and be able to recite them on a moment’s notice. It’s your only weapon against individual tyranny.

  2. Karen Ferguson on

    I read somewhere that one of the strongest unions against legalizing cannabis is the federal prison guards union. It means the end of many of their jobs. Has anyone else come across this information?

    To come out against something as serious as “jail time” for the sole reason that it might put you outta work, well, unconscionable, in my book. I understand the plight of being unemployed, as I am too, yet, the theory of ‘karma’ suggests that I simply try to “do good.” Those prison guards can find other more useful things to do than come down on a medical cannabis user, for whatever reason they are medicating.
    “All use is medical” according to Dennis Peron, author of PROP 215. Thanks, Johnny, for these numbers. They are positive and speak volumes about this 20,000 year old healing medicine.

  3. Idaho Hippy Coalition on

    Biased much Denny? I’m going to have to disagree with you when you say that the vast majority are honest and hardworking. out of the few encounters I have had with police over the years since I was a teenager only a couple of them behave like a human being. the rest were very smug and cocky and flat out liars, I have been under false arrest once, and accused of smelling like marijuana and alcohol after only being off work for 5 minutes. The funny thing is I don’t touch either and had been for several years. And he wouldn’t take no for an answer, the great thing is that now I know my rights and I also can stream live video and store it on the internet for the next time garbage like that occurs. & I won’t be suing the police department I’ll be suing him. I’ll go right after his house, and I’ll Drive off in his wifes car laughing about it. He can suffer the consequences for his actions.

  4. It amazes me how presumed facts are spewed around on this site as absolutes, and many are anything other than factual or merely a hand-picked snippet of information taken out of context..
    The vast majority of cops are honest, friendly, hard working folks who are doing their best to keep people and communities safe.
    Unfortunately, there are some rogues that grab the media attention and undermine the good work being by the majority on duty.
    And yes, I do have personal experience in this area because I’m a retired cop and an honorably retired disabled veteran.

  5. Judges probably prefer having full dockets and plenty of cases to handle. But I believe that as experienced legal professionals Judge’s can’t be cheap. Probably another considerable savings in that aspect as well. Repeal of prohibition isn’t good for judges, attorney’s, bail bond businesses, prison builders or other for profit prison business. Sorry guys, your gravy train on the backs of the poor people is coming to end. Might have to move to a more draconian state for work.

  6. I would like to know how the court system is reacting to 25,000 less cases on their dockets. How many judges are there in Colorado who are directly affected by the new law? How do individual judges feel about this? Does it make a dent in their schedule? Has it relieved a time burden? Are there financial advantages seen this last year? They are tasked with adjudicating the law on the books – but do they still carry a prohibitionist mentality about Cannabis morality or have they “mellowed”? (obviously from a journalist’s perspective)

    Go DPA! Great investigative reporting!

  7. The nice thing is, no matter where you go in CO, you’ll have a better stay than anywhere in the bordering states :)

  8. Silly Rabbit on

    Super good to see / hear ….. I mean you can pick up on your way home, no need to venture out at night and hookup with someone – much cleaner environment – safer purchases, ah yea, crime will go down …..

    Most are just good folks who want to unwind or help medically – there really is no need to get your panties all bunched up over a plant ….

    Great example Colorado, keep it up ….

    Side Note: 2015 is starting out good with many small victories and not many set backs …… 2016 will be a watershed year!

  9. I used to own a police supply store in Houston,TX and some cops were assholes and some were nice. I was invited to a party that my friend got me an invite to. There was drugs everywhere. There was a cop in uniform that was snorting a line of coke. A badge does not make a good cop but the department is responsible for not screening these people better. The cop that killed Michael Brown had been “Let Go” from a previous police department that he worked for using excessive force. There aren’t any checks or balances on police behavior and they always rush to help each other regardless of the circumstances.

  10. When you live in a small town, this attitude is even more obvious. The guy who had that aggressive, abusive personality in High school, is now wearing a badge. And he still enjoys abusing you.

  11. Looking to Visit Colorado for the 1st time soon. Where should i go? Who should I see? Looking for a chill/ informative stay…

  12. I know a few police officers and a few are friends. Police tend to tend to think they are better than others and that people are criminals. Most think this way even off job. A few are real good people and I am thankful for the job they do. I agree with you they need oversight that are not part of any police force. The reason why and good example is a few years ago an officer pulled over a person for broken tail light. The officer got out of his car pulled out his gun and shot the side mirror of the car that was pulled over. Then the officer got back into his patrol car and drove off. The driver of the other car reported what happened to the police. After reviewing what happened they stated that the officers daughter had cancer and he was stressed. OK I felt bad for the daughter but if any person with out a badge did the same thing I know it would of been a different outcome. He did n I t even get fired.

  13. Idaho Hippy Coalition on

    Agreed… it amazes me that they believe that they can behave the way they do, and yet still be believed by the public when it comes time for a jury trial for the defendant. The “cops can do no wrong” crowd is either dying off, or waking up due to social media and YouTube. Also all of them should be required to wear a camera. In cities where police are required to wear a body camera, accusations of misconduct have been reduced by more than half.. Gee I wonder why.

  14. Individual police officers have a tremendous amount of power. When a police officer stops you, you are alone, and at his mercy. His actions are governed not just by the law, but by his own opinions, and prejudices.
    And the power that we give police, attracts the very people who would abuse that authority.
    We need higher standards for hiring, retention, and disciplining police officers. When accused of misconduct, police should answer to an authority other than just other police officers.

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