States that legalize or decriminalize marijuana see “significant reductions in race-based arrests among adults” while those that maintain bans continue to experience “increased arrest rate disparities,” a new study in a major scientific journal published by the American Medical Association finds.
The research looked at data from 43 states and identified a clear pattern. On the face of it, it may seem obvious, but ending or relaxing laws criminalizing cannabis correlates with a significant reduction in arrest compared to countries that have maintained bans.
The analysis of arrests, which focused specifically on trends related to race, compared data from 2008 to 2019. Researchers from Eastern Virginia Medical School and St. Louis University found that states legalizing cannabis experienced 561 fewer arrests per 100,000 black people and 195 arrests Fewer for white people on average during that time period.
Meanwhile, decriminalization was associated with 449 fewer arrests per 100,000 blacks and 117 fewer arrests for whites.
In contrast, the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Health Forum last week, concluded that “cannabis arrests for adults and young adults have increased over time in states that have not implemented a change in cannabis policy.”
Besides the initial arrest rates, racial disparities in arrests also increased in states that maintained bans while decreasing in states that enacted reform.
“Among states with no policy change, arrest rates have increased over time for black adults and have remained stable for white adults.”
The researchers concluded that, “Overall, the findings revealed that states that implemented a change in cannabis policy experienced a significant reduction in arrests compared to states that did not have political reform.” However, they noted that the timing of these trends after the reform was implemented raises “questions about the generalizability of these effects to other countries.”
There was another nuance. Marijuana arrest data for adolescents indicated that young people face a lower risk of being arrested under a simple criminalization than under legalization.
“Absolute arrest trends showed little change in arrest rates for white and black youth in states that implemented cannabis legalization, which is not surprising, given the exclusion of young people from the legal market targeting individuals 21 years of age and older,” the authors wrote. “However, there is still a need for targeted policies to address youth arrests and arrest disparities, as well as ongoing monitoring of policy effects.”
Anyway, the file study He confirmed something reform advocates had long argued: “States that did not implement any change in policy showed no meaningful change in arrests for white individuals and an increase for black individuals, thus increasing the variance in the arrest rate over time.”
The study continued: “The decrease in possession arrests among decriminalization countries in conjunction with their implementation indicates that the policy itself is responsible for the change.” “While states that implemented legalization were already seeing a significant decrease in arrests prior to the policy, states that have decriminalized are showing evidence that the policy itself is the most notable driver of the reduction in arrest rate.”
An absolute reduction in interstate arrests with policy reform could have important social justice implications. As noted, many argue that the dire consequences of possession convictions are more harmful than the health effects of cannabis use. Not only will policy reform reduce or eliminate fines, but court appearances, jail time, and probation, as well as the stigma associated with it. Furthermore, with policy reform, steps can and should be taken to address cases where individuals are currently serving a sentence in prison or prison for possession arrests… Therefore, the short- and long-term social justice effects of cannabis policy reform are widespread and multiplying. More importantly, the results indicate that these benefits will not emerge among countries that do not implement any policy reform, as inequalities in these countries continue to grow.”
The researchers concluded by saying that while the findings “clearly do not favor decriminalization or legalization, increases in inequalities in the arrest rate in states without either policy highlight the need for targeted interventions to address racial injustice.”
For those who have followed the politics of cannabis and the racist effects of the war on drugs, the results of the study are not particularly surprising.
Even the president of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nora Volkow, has done it over and over again Highlight and criticize racial disparities in the application of drug criminalization.
Gamma too This year’s study published that finding That youth marijuana use does not increase after states enact legalization for medical or recreational use, presents a challenge to another prohibition narrative.