Washington D.C. Cannabis Arrest Data Finally Released, Reveals Racial Disparities

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According to data released by Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), even into Washington D.C.’s era of cannabis legalization, racially disproportionate arrests continued. The data, which can be found here was released last month.

According to the data, in total (excluding juvenile arrests, which do not reveal race) there were around 11,700 cannabis-related charges between 2012-2019. Those arrests included possession with intent to distribute, possession, and even public consumption of cannabis. The Outlaw Report’s look at the data observed a few discrepancies and a few charges that did not seem to be related to cannabis but other drugs. As a result, we have accounted for some errors and rounded down. 

Still the numbers are undeniable when it comes to the racially disproportionate arrests.Of those approximate 11,700 arrested for a cannabis charge of some kind, around 10,500 were black. Of those 11,700 arrestees, 709 were white. Of those arrests, 5,987 were for cannabis possession or public consumption arrests were black while 451 were white.

The release of this data is useful for partially understanding where the district falls when it comes to cannabis arrests nationwide. On April 20 of this year, The American Civil Liberties Union released a massive report on racial disparities when it comes to who is arrested for cannabis possession. The report, “A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform,” looked at all 50 states’ cannabis possession arrests between 2010-2018 and revealed a national average in which a black person was 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than a white person.

Not included in the data, the ACLU noted, was Washington DC because, the ACLU explained, the district had refused to provide that data.

Last month, on May 19, DC’s MPD released its cannabis arrest data for 2012-2019, which is not from the same era analyzed by the ACLU—that was 2010-2018—but it is still illuminating. The MPD data comes with an explanatory note about juveniles whose information is partially shielded and DC’s cannabis laws.

The MPD told the Outlaw Report in a series of short responses over email, that the data was not released because of the ACLU’s report and that the ACLU has since received this information. They also said the timing of the release had nothing to do with the ACLU and was simply when the data was finally gathered.

“The data was published when it became available,” wrote Alaina Gertz, Public Affairs Specialist for MPD’s Office of Communications.

Photo by backdc / via Shutterstock

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