Study: Over 200,000 Marijuana Arrests In Colorado Over Past 25 Years

In the 25 years from 1986 to 2010, police and sheriffs’ departments in Colorado made 210,000 arrests for the crime of possessing small amounts of marijuana, according to a report released today by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project.

The study finds that cannabis arrests have risen sharply in the state, from 4,000 in 1986 to 10,500 in 2010, and that young people are most likely to among those arrested. According to the report, eighty-six percent of those arrested for cannabis offenses were age 34 or younger; 79 percent were 29 or younger, and 69 percent were 24 or younger.

The report also finds that African Americans and Latinos are arrested at greater rates than Caucasians despite being less likely to consume cannabis. African Americans residing in Colorado are arrested at three times the rate of whites, while Latinos are arrested at 1.5 times the rate of whites. The report is first study to document arrest rates of Latinos in Colorado.

Proponents of Amendment 64, The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012, believe that the arrest data emphasizes the need for passing the measure this November. If approved, A-64 would immediately amend state law to allow for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants by adults.

According to the latest statewide polling data, 48 percent of Colorado voters support A-64. Forty-three percent of likely voters oppose the initiative and nine percent are undecided. Women voters oppose A-64 by a margin of 48 percent to 40 percent. NORML and the NORML Women’s Alliance are coordinating phone banking efforts in support of the Campaign here.

A separate report by the Project, released earlier this month, similarly found that police in Washington are arresting marijuana offenders in increasing numbers. That report found that law enforcement have made over 241,000 arrests for cannabis offenses in the past 25 years. Blacks in Washington state were arrested for marijuana possession at more than twice the rate of whites. Latinos were arrested at rates more than 50 percent higher than whites, the report found.

Washington state voters will decide in November on I-502, which seeks to regulate the production and sale of limited amounts of marijuana for adults. The measure also removes criminal penalties specific to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use. In the latest polling, I-502 leads by a margin of 54 percent to 38 percent.

Learn more about marijuana in the 2012 election by reading NORML’s voter guide, Smoke the Vote.

6 thoughts

  1. Interesting…

    According to
    “New York’s current failed policy has cost the state around $75 million a year to arrest about 50,000 people”

    – which, by that math is approximately $1500
    per arrest

    and if we take the 210,000 x $1500
    we are looking at $315 MILLION
    spent in arrests,
    not counting extended stays,
    and other financial line items…


    It is time Colorado looked at that with open eyes-


  2. Does more arrests mean men more success or more failure of drug policy. If prohibition worked you would see a peak in arrests then a falling off as more users were caught or deterred and suppliers put out of business. A continual increase must mean a failure of prohibition but prohibitionists are too stupid to understand this statistical conclusion.

  3. The eighteenth amendment was repealled because the underworld was controlling and profiting from something the country was using without regard for the illegal reprocussions. The lessons that brought about the twentifirst amendment are ignored and twisted by the organizations profitting from ignorance. Even today, while are schools are coming down, prisons are built in a nation with the largest prisoner population in the world. Stop the madness and cease lying to the public through the media, manipulating available scientific data, and using the penal system to treat patients. WE DESERVE BETTER!

  4. America’s prisons continue to fill exponentially. According to, the U.S. has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world, with 2,266,800 citizens in federal or state prisons according to a survey done in 2010. Jail isn’t free, and considering the current state of some of our public schools, roads, etc…, we should be spending money on things other than marijuana users. How many deaths have ever been reported from the primary use of marijuana? None. Compare that number to the mortality rate brought about by say, alcohol, or tobacco, which are both completely legal substances. Caffeine will kill you before marijuana will. The prohibition of marijuana, and subsequently the myriad of users or distributors who are incarcerated represents a blatant ignorance and unwillingness on the part of both federal and local governments to investigate the substance’s properties and let the public know the truth about the plant: that it isn’t a danger to our well being.

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