Monday, January 3, 2022
The title of this post is the title of this encouraging new research in the January 2022 issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine. This piece is authored by Christian Gunadi and Yuyan Shi, and here is its abstract:
Minorities often bear the brunt of unequal enforcement of drug laws. In the U.S., Blacks have been disproportionately more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than Whites despite a similar rate of cannabis use. Decriminalizing cannabis has been argued as a way to reduce racial disparity in cannabis possession arrests. To date, however, the empirical evidence to support this argument is almost non-existent.
To examine whether cannabis decriminalization was associated with reduced racial disparity in arrests for cannabis possession between Blacks and Whites in the U.S.
Using FBI Uniform Crime Report data from 37 U.S. states, cannabis possession arrest rates were calculated separately for Blacks and Whites from 2000 to 2019. A difference-in-differences framework was used to estimate the association between cannabis decriminalization and racial disparity in cannabis possession arrest rates (Blacks/Whites ratio) among adults and youths.
Cannabis possession arrest rates declined over 70% among adults and over 40% among youths after the implementation of cannabis decriminalization in 11 states. Among adults, decriminalization was associated with a roughly 17% decrease in racial disparity in arrest rates between Blacks and Whites. Among youths, arrest rates declined among both Blacks and Whites but there was no evidence for a change in racial disparity between Blacks and Whites following decriminalization.
Cannabis decriminalization was associated with substantially lower cannabis possession arrest rates among both adults and youths and among both Blacks and Whites. It reduced racial disparity between Blacks and Whites among adults but not youths. These findings suggested that cannabis decriminalization had its intended consequence of reducing arrests and may have potential to reduce racial disparity in arrests at least among adults.