Study: Cannabis Decriminalization Reduces Arrest Rate Racial Disparity

A recent study found that cannabis decriminalization policies have helped to reduce the racial disparity in cannabis possession arrests.

Full story after the jump.

A new study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that cannabis decriminalization policies reduce racial disparity in cannabis possession arrests, Forbes reports.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego based the study on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report from 37 states between 2000 and 2019. The researchers found that in 11 states with new cannabis decriminalization policies, possession arrest rates dropped 70% for adults and 40% for youth. These reductions coincided with a 17% drop in the racial disparity in cannabis possession arrests for adults; however, while youth arrests dropped, there was no positive adjustment between Black and white youth cannabis possession arrests.

It has been proven that Black people are more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related crimes than white people, despite Blacks and whites consuming cannabis at similar rates.

“Cannabis decriminalization seemed to be particularly beneficial to Blacks, who were suffering the most from the adverse consequences of criminal penalties. Taken together, we recommend that lawmakers and public health researchers reconsider cannabis decriminalization as an option of cannabis liberalization, particularly in states concerning the unintended consequences and implementation costs of medical and recreational cannabis legalization.” – “Cannabis decriminalization and racial disparity in arrests for cannabis possession,” Social Science & Medicine, Jan. 2022

When the researchers looked at medical cannabis and adult-use laws, they found medical cannabis laws had no effect on overall arrest rates but adult-use laws did lead to a drop in possession arrests for both white and Black people. However, the researchers found adult-use laws did not have an effect on the racial divide as it relates to cannabis possession arrests. This may be because many states decriminalized cannabis before their adult-use laws were enacted, while another reason may be because most states legalized cannabis sometime after 2016 and the study only uses data through 2019, according to the report.


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