Latinos Also Especially Screwed Over by Pot Prohibition

Though Not As Much As Blacks

By Jacob Sullum

Last week the Drug Policy Alliance released a report that showed blacks in California are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though they are less likely to smoke pot. Today another DPA report highlights similar, though less dramatic, disparities between Latinos and non-Hispanic whites. In a coordinated move, the National Latino Officers Association, citing marijuana prohibition’s disproportionate impact on Latinos, today endorsed Proposition 19, California’s pot legalization initiative. The National Black Police Association and the California NAACP are supporting Prop. 19 for similar reasons.

The authors of the DPA report, led by Queens College sociologist Harry Levine, found that from 2006 to 2008 “major cities in California arrested and prosecuted Latinos for marijuana possession at double to nearly triple the rate of whites,” despite the fact that “U.S. government surveys consistently find that young Latinos use marijuana at lower rates than young whites.” Out of 33 cities examined in the report, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Alhambra—where Latinos were almost three times as likely to be busted for marijuana offenses— had the biggest disparties. In Los Angeles, which accounts for one-tenth of the state’s population, the ratio was 2 to 1.