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FBI data: Nationwide, marijuana arrests were actually up last year

On Behalf of | Oct 14, 2019 | Drug Crimes

Considering that over half of the states have legalized marijuana for at least medical purposes, you might expect that the overall rate of marijuana-related arrests would go down. At least, you would assume that, with so many states no longer enforcing laws against possession of weed, the number of arrests for weed possession would be waning.

Apparently not. The War on Drugs is far from over, apparently. According to new data from the FBI, last year state and local law enforcement made a total of 663,367 marijuana arrests nationwide. That means a person was arrested for a weed-related crime every 48 seconds.

Even more shockingly, nearly 92% were for possession alone.

That’s a lot of marijuana arrests – and it’s up compared to the last two years. In 2017, law enforcement busted 659,700 people for weed. In 2016, the number was 653,249. Before that, marijuana arrests had been declining for about a decade.

For this to be happening, the rate of marijuana arrests must have risen substantially in the 39 states where marijuana isn’t fully legal for adult use. It would have to be, considering how much marijuana arrests must have declined in the 11 states where the drug is legal for those over 21.

Troublingly, the rate of marijuana enforcement seems to be interfering with the enforcement of other, much more serious crimes. According to the FBI, police made arrests in only 33% or reported rapes, only 30% of robberies and only 14% of burglaries.

Indeed, police busted people for marijuana last year far more often than they did for aggravated assault, arson, burglary, disorderly conduct, fraud or sex offenses. Overall, drug busts accounted for over 16% of all arrests last year in the U.S.

Is this the focus we want from law enforcement?

“Americans should be outraged that police departments across the country continue to waste tax dollars and limited law enforcement resources on arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens for simple marijuana possession,” says the executive director of NORML.

At a time when a full majority of Americans believes that we should legalize marijuana, we should be seeing less aggressive enforcement. Instead, we’re arguably seeing increased marijuana enforcement. This is putting otherwise completely innocent people behind bars for months, years and even decades. It simply has to stop.


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