DC police data: Marijuana-related arrests up in recent years despite decriminalization

Metropolitan Police Department data analyzed by industry online publication MarijuanaMoment.net shows marijuana-related arrests are up since 2015 - despite decriminalization in 2014 and 2015.

Marijuana-related arrests, including possession, public consumption and distribution, have been increasing steadily since 2015.

Possession of small amounts of marijuana, under two ounces, is legal in D.C. However, possession of more than that amount, public consumption or distribution remain against the law.

In 2017, 926 people were arrested for marijuana-related crimes, up 37 percent from 2016.

The data also shows a stark racial disparity in the arrests. Ninety-one percent of arrests in 2017 were of people identified by police as black. Yet the U.S. Census Bureau puts the District's black population at 47 percent.

April Goggans of Black Lives Matter D.C. said the data clearly shows communities of color being targeted.

"They are targeting black folks," Goggans said. "They are targeting black neighborhoods. They are assuming probably that most black people have marijuana ... that is larger than the amount allowed by law."

FOX 5 asked D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham about the data and if there is an unequal application of the city's marijuana laws.

"I think that taking any one stat and somehow using that one stat to kind of make that indicative of police action I think is probably unfair and probably not the best way to do it," Newsham said.

Newsham said of the possession arrests, the majority of those defendants had a significant amount of marijuana.

Newsham points out in a number of the arrests, it is likely a person was charged with a more serious crime and not solely arrested based on marijuana.