FBI Reports Marijuana Arrests Increased Last Year for First Time Since 2009


The annual number of arrests for marijuana offenses in the U.S. increased last year for the first time since 2009, according to the Uniform Crime Report released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


An estimated 700,993 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana-related offenses in 2014 — up from 693,058 in 2013 — of which 88.42% were for possession. On average, one person was arrested for a marijuana-related offense in the U.S. approximately every 45 seconds (every 51 seconds for possession).

From U.S. News & World Report:

It’s unclear why the number of arrests increased last year, particularly given the nationwide sea change in attitudes about the status of marijuana and political actions that decriminalized or abolished penalties for possessing the drug.

Retail marijuana shops opened in Colorado and Washington state in 2014, where most adults are allowed to possess small quantities of pot. In November, voters in Alaska, Oregon and the nation’s capital voted to legalize it, too — though penalties technically weren’t ditched right away.

Maryland, meanwhile, decriminalized small-time pot possession in October 2014, replacing arrests with citations. The nation’s largest and fifth-largest cities made similar moves, and monthly marijuana arrest rates reportedly fell about 75 percent after New York City and Philadelphia implemented the policies in November and October, respectively.

With several states — including Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — preparing to vote on legalization in 2016, following Ohio voters this November, Angell says arrest numbers should soon drop significantly.

National polls generally show majority support for marijuana legalization, with larger majorities supporting states’ rights to legalize the drug or believing legalization is inevitable. 

While law enforcement was busy making nearly three quarters of a million marijuana arrests, more than 35% of murders went unsolved, the clearance rate for rape was less than 40%, and for robbery and property crimes, it was below 30%. 

The full report can be read here.

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New Report Shows Marijuana Arrests Increasing


Dr. Jon Gettman

A report released today by Dr. Jon Gettman shows that despite increasing support for ending marijuana prohibition, arrests for possession are actually increasing in some states. The report and other information can be found on Dr. Gettman’s new site, RegulatingCannabis.com.

According to a blog by Paul Armentano at NORML:

From 2008 to 2012, seventeen state-level jurisdictions experienced an average annual increase in marijuana arrests, the report found. South Carolina (11.6 percent) and the District of Columbia (7.7 percent) experienced the highest overall percentage increase in arrests during this time period. By contrast, annual marijuana arrests fell nationwide by an average of 3.3 percent from 2008 to 2012.
Hopefully this will change as more states consider reforming their marijuana laws. The District of Columbia in particular should begin to see significant declines in marijuana arrests since a law removing criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce went into effect on July 17.
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FBI Study Shows Marijuana Arrests Continue at Near Record Levels Despite Changing National Attitudes


Marijuana arrests continued at near record levels in 2012, and the vast majority of them were for simple possession. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report,FBI army an estimated 749,824 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana, more than 87% of which were for possession. This is a slight decrease from 2011. Marijuana arrests accounted for nearly half of all drug arrests last year.

The report also noted that 59.9% of rapes, 53.2% of all violent crimes, and 81% of property crimes reported in 2012 were unsolved or did not result in arrest.

The full report is available here: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012

These results show that one person is arrested for marijuana possession every 48 seconds on average in the United States. A Pew Research Poll released in April reported that a majority of Americans think marijuana should be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.

In a nutshell, we continue to waste billions of dollars arresting and prosecuting people for using a substance that is safer than alcohol, which most Americans think should be legal, and allow huge numbers of violent attacks and property crimes to go unanswered and unpunished. And we do this year after year. The only bright side is that arrest numbers, while still unacceptably high, appear to be dropping.

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Will John Boehner’s Growing Family Change His Mind About Marijuana Policy?


The more people you know who use marijuana, the harder it becomes to say that they should be arrested for possessing it. After all, the vast majority of marijuana users are productive and otherwise law-abiding members of society. This fact has become increasingly evident as more and more people come out of the “cannabis closet” and become open about their experiences with the substance.

Dom Lakhan main
Dominic Lakhan

Last Friday, House Speaker John Boehner’s daughter Lindsay married Dominic Lakhan, a Jamaican-born construction worker. Lakhan was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana in 2006.

John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy
Rep. John Boehner

Is it possible that Boehner, who has consistently opposed marijuana policy reform, will start to come around now that he has a convicted marijuana user for a son-in-law? Does he think Lakhan is better off with an arrest record or that Lakhan deserves to be arrested again for using marijuana? Would he care about how it affects his daughter? Only time will tell.

Let’s hope his experience is similar to that of Republican Senator Rob Portman, who changed his stance on gay marriage after learning that his son is gay. While this position initially caused a slight loss in approval among Republicans in his state, the growing acceptance of gay marriage (which has been nearly mirrored by the increasing support for marijuana policy reform) could actually help him in the long run.

Politicians’ thinking traditionally lags far behind the general public on social issues, but it gets a little harder to ignore when that thinking hurts your own family.

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One Million Hours


Have you ever wondered how many hours law enforcement officers waste on arresting and processing people for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession? The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has the answer, and it’s in the seven digits.

Michael Bloomberg (Photo by Time.com)

The DPA reviewed low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests carried out by the New York Police Department (NYPD) during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure and found that NYPD used approximately 1,000,000 hours of police officer time to make 440,000 marijuana possession arrests over 11 years. That’s 1,000,000 hours that could have been spent investigating and solving serious, violent crimes. And that is just one city.

Additionally, the report, which was prepared by professor of sociology at Queens College Dr. Harry Levine, a recognized expert on marijuana possession arrests, estimates that the people arrested by NYPD for marijuana possession have spent 5,000,000 hours in police custody over the last decade.

The only people who profit from a police force high on marijuana arrests are the real predators. How many more hours will be squandered until lawmakers realize that targeting non-violent marijuana users is putting our communities at risk?

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City of Chicago Reduces Penalties for Marijuana Possession


Today, the City Council of Chicago voted 43-3 to amend the city’s code to direct police officers to cite, rather than arrest, individuals in possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana. Under the proposal, which has the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, police could still arrest those who cannot produce identification or present a threat to public safety. Those cited would face fines of $200 to $500 dollars and up to 10 hours of community service; however, there would be no risk of jail time.

Passage of the measure means that adults in possession of small amounts of marijuana will no longer be arrested or saddled with criminal records that can make it harder to obtain employment, housing, and student loans. The ordinance will also allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes, like the city’s soaring murder rate, while conserving limited police resources. Violent crime has become a serious concern in Chicago, with homicides up 38% over the last year.

Chicago now joins over 90 other localities in Illinois and 15 other states across the nation in removing criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession. Since enacting laws replacing arrest and jail with fines for such violations, there has been no appreciable increase in marijuana use in those areas, either among adults or young people. The move follows a recent trend in marijuana reforms, including a similar penalty reform in Rhode Island and medical marijuana legislation in Connecticut this May and June. Legislative chambers in New York, New Hampshire, and New Jersey also approved marijuana policy reforms in recent weeks. This trend reflects growing public consensus that harsh marijuana laws are ineffective, and scarce law enforcement resources should not be used to arrest adults for using a substance safer than alcohol.

If only President Obama’s former colleagues, like his good friend the Mayor of Chicago, could convince him that people are ready for real marijuana policy change, and that we need it more than ever.

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Not Very Metal: Megadeth Frontman Endorses Rick Santorum


UPDATE: Dave Mustaine has clarified his position, saying that he likes Santorum but does not officially “endorse” him.


I was shocked to learn that Dave Mustaine, the singer of Megadeth, endorsed Rick Santorum for president.

If you’re not a fan of heavy metal, you might not know that Megadeth is one of the most popular metal bands of all time — and they’re certainly one of the most political bands in any music genre.  Dave Mustaine actually covered the presidential race for MTV News in 1996.

As one of two MPP staffers who regularly  listens to heavy metal, I can say with confidence that Dave Mustaine should have endorsed Ron Paul — if Mustaine wanted to be at all representative of his fans.

Disciples of heavy metal are disproportionately libertarians:  The anti-authority music lyrics go hand-in-hand with the anti-authoritarian policy positions of libertarians like Ron Paul.

Also, fans of heavy metal are more likely to be marijuana users than the average citizen.  (If you don’t believe me, go to an Ozzy Osbourne concert and breathe deeply.)  So when Mustaine endorses Rick Santorum, Mustaine is basically saying that it is just fine with him if literally millions of his fans continue to face arrest … for doing no harm to others.

On principal, Mustaine should have endorsed Ron Paul. And, even if only for selfish reasons, Mustaine should not have endorsed Rick Santorum, who seeks to incarcerate a large portion of the people who pay Mustaine’s salary.

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Vermont to Consider Adding PTSD to Medical Marijuana Qualifying Conditions


Vermont was the ninth state to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana to treat certain illnesses, and now it may become the third to make post-traumatic stress disorder one of those qualifying illnesses. A new bill, introduced by Rep. Jim Masland, would allow patients afflicted with the serious psychological condition from war or other trauma to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest.

There are many people suffering from PTSD who have tried treating their symptoms with marijuana and have found it to be far more effective than the prescription pharmaceuticals they had been directed to use. Unfortunately, there is little scientific research to support their claims, and the federal government recently denied permission to study the potential benefits of marijuana for returning veterans.

If the law passes, Vermont will join New Mexico and Delaware as the only states to allow medical marijuana to be recommended for PTSD out of the 16 states (and the District of Columbia) that permit marijuana treatment for other conditions.

In June 2011, Vermont passed a bill that would regulate the establishment of four non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state.

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Teen Marijuana Use Continues to Rise Despite High Arrest Rates


Marijuana use by 8th, 10th and 12th grade students increased again in 2011, with more American teenagers now using marijuana for the fourth year in a row, according to numbers released today by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan as part of the annual Monitoring the Future survey. In 2011, a slightly larger percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the last 30 days, while slightly less had used alcohol. Marijuana use continues to rise among youth despite the continued policy of arresting nearly a million people every year for marijuana violations.

“This report, once again, clearly demonstrates that our nation’s policymakers have their heads buried in the sand when it comes to addressing teen marijuana use,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.  “Political leaders have for decades refused to regulate marijuana in order to keep it out of the hands of drug dealers who aren’t required to check customer ID and have no qualms about selling marijuana to young people. The continued decline in teen tobacco and alcohol use is proof that sensible regulations, coupled with honest, and science-based public education can be effective in keeping substances away from young people. It’s time we acknowledge that our current marijuana laws have utterly failed to accomplish one of their primary objectives – to keep marijuana away from young people – and do the right thing by regulating marijuana, bringing its sale under the rule of law, and working to reduce the easy access to marijuana that our irrational system gives teenagers.”

Since the survey’s inception, overwhelming numbers of American teenagers have said marijuana was easy for them to obtain. According to the 2011 numbers, the use of alcohol – which is also regulated and sold by licensed merchants required to check customer ID – continued to decline among high school seniors, as did tobacco use.

“Arresting people for marijuana simply does not stop young people from using it, and it never will,” said Kampia. “It is time for a more sensible approach.”

To read the report, go here.

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Second Highest Year in U.S. History for Marijuana Arrests


Last week, we discussed the near record number of arrests for simple marijuana possession in 2010, and how no matter how many people we arrest for marijuana violations, the rates of use are unaffected.

Just to put that in perspective, it turns out that last year was the second biggest year for marijuana arrests in United States history!

Check it out:

It is very disturbing to see how far the actions of our law enforcement community really are from public opinion and actual rational thought when it comes to policy. The year with the second highest number of arrests in national history came simultaneously with an increased acceptance of marijuana use and an increase in public support for change. How does this make sense?

The good news is that we can stop this by supporting state and national reform measures in any way possible. While exact statistics aren’t available yet, it is certain that a noticeable percentage of the decrease in arrests over the last two years was due to MPP’s Question 2 passing in Massachusetts and going into effect in 2009. This initiative removed criminal penalties for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and replaced the criminal penalty with the equivalent of a parking ticket. If we keep working together to pass sane, rational marijuana laws, we can make that number drop before next year.

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