Research

Marijuana Arrests Increasing Nationally Despite State Reforms

On Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released their annual Crime in the United States (CIUS) report, and the stats are concerning.

Tom Angell reported for Forbes:

Marijuana possession busts comprised 37.36% of all reported drug arrests in the U.S. in 2016, and cannabis sales and manufacturing arrests accounted for another 4.18% of the total.

Added together, marijuana arrests made up 41.54% of the 1,572,579 drug busts in the country last year.

That means, based on an extrapolation, that police arrested people for cannabis 653,249 times in the U.S. in 2016.

That averages out to about one marijuana arrest every 48 seconds.

According to the same calculation, there were 643,121 U.S. cannabis arrests in 2015.

So arrests for marijuana are on the rise, even as more states legalize it.

These figures are only estimates based on the available information provided by law enforcement agencies, but represent the best current method for determining arrest rates. In addition, the FBI has ceased publishing the information about the drug arrest percentages by type of drug, making analysis even more difficult.

MPP's Morgan Fox released the following statement:

Arresting and citing more than 650,000 people a year for a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol is a travesty. Despite a steady shift in public opinion away from marijuana prohibition, and the growing number of states that are regulating marijuana like alcohol, marijuana consumers continue to be treated like criminals throughout the country. This is a shameful waste of resources and can create lifelong consequences for the people arrested. Regulating marijuana for adults creates jobs, generates tax revenue, protects consumers, and takes money away from criminals. It is time for the federal government and the rest of the states to stop ruining peoples’ lives and enact sensible marijuana policies.

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Prohibition

National Crime Data Shows Marijuana Arrests Dropping, Still Happen More Than Once a Minute

The FBI just released its annual Crime in the United States report, detailing national crime data for 2015. According to the report, marijuana arrests are at a two decade low. This is definitely a good sign, but even one marijuana arrest is too many, and more than one marijuana arrest occurs every minute.fbi

Huffington Post reports:

...authorities in the U.S. made 643,000 arrests for marijuana-related charges in 2015 ― or about one every 49 seconds. Charges related to the drug accounted for 5.9 percent of all arrests, and about 43.2 percent of all drug arrests. 

The number of marijuana arrests has been generally decreasing since peaking in 2007. That year, police made 872,720 total arrests related to the drug, including 775,137 for possession. Just about 574,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2015 involved possession, and arrests for the sale and manufacture of the drug reached a nearly 25-year low.

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Opponents to legalization often downplay the significance of marijuana arrests, arguing that they don’t lead to severe punishments and that a very small percentage of Americans wind up jailed for low-level marijuana offenses. 

Yet a recent report from the Drug Policy Alliance found that getting arrested for marijuana can still significantly affect a person, even though marijuana-related penalties have been scaled back in many places over recent years. 

“A marijuana arrest is no small matter,” reads the report, which also shows that most people arrested for marijuana are held in jail for a day or more. Many are also branded with a permanent criminal record, which can hurt their employment status and access to education and housing. 

Additionally, a one-year HuffPost analysis of jail deaths found that several inmates arrested on a marijuana offense died behind bars.

Such arrests are also costly ― authorities spend approximately $3.6 billion annually enforcing laws against marijuana possession, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

With five states considering initiatives to regulate marijuana like alcohol in November, another three voting on medical marijuana initiatives, and lobbying efforts planned in dozens of states next year, we could start to see those numbers drop even more in the coming years. There is still much work to do.

 

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Prohibition

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.

UCR

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.

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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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Prohibition

FBI Study Shows Marijuana Arrests Do Not Deter Use

Marijuana arrests continued at disturbing levels in 2011, the vast majority of which were for simple possession. According to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, 757,969 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana, more than 87% of which were for possession. This is a slight decrease from 2010.  Marijuana arrests accounted for slightly less than half of all drug arrests last year.

In 2011, one American was arrested for marijuana possession every 42 seconds.

Despite intensive law enforcement resources being used to arrest and punish marijuana users, rates of marijuana use continue to rise. The “National Survey on Drug Use and Health” -- commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and released in late September -- showed that marijuana use had slightly increased nationally between 2010 and 2011. According to the report, more than 29.7 million people aged 12 and older used marijuana at least once in the past year.

“It’s obvious that decades of law enforcement efforts have failed to reduce the availability or use of marijuana.  Arresting one American for marijuana possession every 42 seconds is an exercise in futility, especially when one considers that marijuana is safer than alcohol,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. “A business that continues to employ bad policies will eventually fail, but taxpayers are being forced to continually bail out the fiscally irresponsible and morally bankrupt institution of marijuana prohibition. A majority of Americans are tired of this nightmare.  It’s time for politicians to regulate marijuana like alcohol.”

A Rasmussen poll in May showed that 56% of voters supported removing criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and instead taxing and regulating the substance in a manner similar to alcohol. In November, voters in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon will have the opportunity to end marijuana prohibition in their states.

While the graph below may look like an improvement, it is important to remember several things:
1) Marijuana arrests account for 50% of all drug arrests.
2) 86% of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession.
3) This means that 43% of all drug arrests are for marijuana possession.
4) Arresting 655,416 people in one year for possession of a plant that is demonstrably safer than legal alcohol is indefensible.
We must also remember that this number can easily start to climb again if we do not continue to work for reform. Please do your part to help cut marijuana arrests dramatically next year and donate whatever you can to support Amendment 64 in Colorado. There is only one week left until the election, and every little bit helps convince voters who are still undecided. Together, we can help Colorado become the first place in the world to make marijuana legal!

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