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240,000 Marijuana Possession Arrests in Washington State in the Last 25 Years

By Drug Policy Alliance October 13, 2012 240,000 Marijuana Possession Arrests in Washington State in the Last 25 Years
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Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans Disproportionately Arrested; 25 Years of Arrests in WA Cost $300 Million or More; Washington Voters to Decide on Making Marijuana Legal With November Vote

OLYMPIA, WA — With just three weeks remaining before Washington voters decide whether to make marijuana possession legal in their state, a new report — “240,000 Marijuana Arrests: Costs, Consequences, and Racial Disparities of Possession Arrests in Washington” — reveals that nearly a quarter of a million people have been arrested in Washington for marijuana possession since 1986.  Police made more than half of those marijuana arrests in just the last 10 years.

The study, based on FBI-UCR crime data, reports that from 2001 to 2010, 79% of the people arrested were 34 years or younger, and most people arrested were white. From 2001 to 2010, blacks, Latinos and Native Americans made up 14% of Washington’s residents, but they were 25% of the people arrested for marijuana possession. This is the first study to show arrests of Latinos in Washington.

Other key findings include:

  • Police made 129,000 marijuana possession arrests in just the last ten years.
  • In Washington, blacks were arrested at 2.9 times the rate of whites. Latinos and Native Americans were arrested at 1.6 times the rate of whites.
  • In the last ten years, the arrests have cost $200 million to $300 million.
  • Marijuana possession arrests in Washington rose sharply over the past 25 years, from 4,000 in 1986 to 11,000 in 2010, totaling 240,000 arrests.

“U.S government studies consistently find that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young blacks and Latinos. But police arrested young blacks and Latinos at higher rates than young whites. These possession arrests are expensive and unjust” said report co-author Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College, City University of New York.

“A single marijuana possession arrest creates a permanent criminal record easily found on the internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards, and banks. A criminal record for the ‘drug crime’ of marijuana possession creates barriers to employment and education for anyone, including whites and the middle class,” said Loren Siegel, Esq.  co-director of the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and one of the report’s authors.”Marijuana arrests are costly, do not reduce crime, create criminal records with serious and often life-long consequences, and take police from other crime fighting work” said report co-author Jon B. Gettman, a criminal justice professor at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.The report was prepared by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project which has produced studies of marijuana possession arrests in New York, California, and major U.S. cities.

The report addresses issues to be affected by the upcoming election, when Washington voters will decide on an initiative that proposes to legally regulate marijuana.

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