FBI: 750,000 People Arrested for Simple Marijuana Possession. And For What?

Sep 20, 2011 , , , , , , , , ,

The FBI released their annual Uniform Crime Report yesterday, and the results are anything but surprising. Across the country, people continue to be arrested for marijuana-related violations at an alarming rate, despite the steadily decreasing stigma associated with it and increasing efforts at reforming our irrational marijuana laws. And guess what? It still isn’t working. Our esteemed leaders claim otherwise, even while admitting that they need to change their tactics!

Over the past year, the Obama administration stated that the “war on drugs” is over, and that the government was going to shift its focus away from law enforcement and interdiction and instead put more effort toward public health and education with regard to drugs. At a press conference just last week, Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske stated that we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem.

If these statements are true, then how do they justify the arrests of more than 853,000 people for marijuana-related violations in 2010? That’s one person arrested every 19 seconds! The Drug Czar maintains that law enforcement protocols are still considered a useful tool for eliminating suppliers and dealers as a way to decrease overall use.

Okay, that seems like it makes sense. So how many of those 853,000 arrests were for sale or manufacture of marijuana? The answer is just over 103,000. That means that more than 750,000 people were arrested last year for simple possession! A remarkably small number of people who may have distributed marijuana were arrested last year, along with three quarters of a million simple users, in an effort to curb marijuana use nationwide.

Were those people “useful tools” in preventing marijuana use? Absolutely not. According to the government’s own data, marijuana use actually increased last year.

Now, we’ve seen that Kerlikowske is correct when he says that we can’t arrest our way out of this “problem.” We can see that arresting people for marijuana, even for marijuana sales, has no effect on marijuana use rates. This glaringly obvious fact makes such statements from the federal government even more confusing, given their continued trend of upholding the status quo at all costs.

Let’s look at some slightly more disturbing aspects of this report.

Arrests for simple marijuana possession accounted for 5.7% of all arrests in 2010! That is a significant percentage of our law enforcement efforts devoted to punishing people for a victimless crime. It seems that there are better ways to use those resources, especially considering that there were more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes. How many violent acts occurred last year that did not result in an arrest? How many rapes and murders went unsolved due to lack of funds or personnel?

The Obama administration has repeatedly claimed that we need to rethink our approach to drug problems. If it really means this, it needs to seriously consider the most obvious starting point: taxing and regulating marijuana for adults. It is time we stop spending billions of dollars ruining people’s lives in a vain attempt to prevent them from using a plant that humans have used safely for thousands of years.


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33 responses to “FBI: 750,000 People Arrested for Simple Marijuana Possession. And For What?”

  1. One of the things I tell my children is to always do what you say you are going to do. Mr. Obama will lose my vote this time around for that very reason. He never walked the talk. He must believe that arresting and criminalizing close to a million of our citizens each year is the proper approach to punishing those who would use marijuana. The day is soon coming when those politicians who refuse to google “marijuana” and learn the truth, those who still cling to the reefer madness mentality, will be a few votes shy come election day. Marijuana is no longer the “avoid at all cost issue” it used to be and it will be the smart politician who understands this that will gain votes. This is alcohol vs. marijuana. America needs a choice. We are tired of the slurred speech, the stumbling, the violence, the domestic abuse. the vomitting and peeing on yourself and others… it is time for a safer choice.

  2. @Denbee – While I agre with your paragraph I think your decision to refuse to vote for Obama due to this issue is rather weak. Compare the candidates who will be running against him next year, I doubt ANY of them will meet your criteria so your might need to lower your standards a bit. Politicians seldom do what they say they will do. Unfortunately.

  3. Oh it certainly stinks to be one of those 750,000…. $800 fine for less than 1/5th of a gram. That’s in addition to a conditional discharge – thankfully I live in CA and not the state I got arrested in. Either way, we need to keep fighting. Change doesn’t happen by itself! Write your local politicians, attend events, educate everyone you know – don’t be afraid to be a cannabis user!

  4. I do believe things will gradually change as people become more accepting of this. Then the government can tax legal marijuana and get a good deal of revenue for it (tea party folks won’t like the idea of taxes, but oh well).

  5. I think the goverment and/or some states do not want to lose all the money from the 850,000+ charges and fines that they are getting! It’s like a Job security and power over the people to do what they say ,or you’re going to pay dearly for it if you do not!!

  6. To Fern. I disagree that anyone should lower his/her standards when it comes to choosing our leaders. True, a republican candidate may be worse, but this lesser if the two evils and good enough for now mentality is what got us to this shameful place to begin with. Stop settling. Study your gov. reps and hold them accountable. If a democrat or republican doesn’t fit the bill go green or independent. Personally, I’d love to see both major parties barred from service for a few terms to remind them who’s supposed to be in charge.

  7. Fern, vote for Ron Paul. He wants to legalize marijuana because as a physician he KNOWS how ridiculous it is to have a legal, more damaging drug like alcohol being used and promoted in this country than the less benign, non addicting non lethal marijuana. It’s time to stop acting like a police state where marijuana is concerned and allow ADULTS to be left in peace so that they can choose a less harmful substance than alcohol! When did we become a country that tolerates criminalizing otherwise law abiding citizens for use of a basically harmless substance, when LEGAL alcohol kills 100,000 people every year (30,000 of whom are INNOCENT BYSTANDERS) and LEGAL tobacco kills 420,000 a year, not to mention what it costs us in medical bills for the care of these people. Anything that is OUTLAWED should be done so based on the HARM that it causes, not because of MISINFORMATION. It’s time for some truth and awareness and time to stop punishing people who prefer a healthier alternative to getting “stoned by alcohol”.

  8. To Larry, the money that the states are pulling in is actually a loss of income. The man hours and money spent on investigating, legal counsel, prosecution, tasks forces that attempt to eradicate crops, and incarceration is way more than the money recouped from fines. Combine that with the time that law enforcement isn’t spending on crimes that result in victimization, either financial or a victims’ well-being, and the costs skyrocket. It’s too bad politicians are so naive to this.

    • what we need to do is follow the money
      fines and probation benefit the police department
      imprisonment benefits the for profit jails which is a fast growing industry of
      so who pays for this
      fines and probation those who were convicted and there family’s
      imprisonment every sing tax payer which come to billions

  9. Legalization of Cannabis was the #1 issue on the change.org website that people wanted enacted by Obama after he got elected. He told the DOJ to quit harrassing medical marijuana businesses. That didn’t happen. Legalization of Cannabis & getting out of the “endless wars” in the Middle East are 2 of my main issues. Obama has only paid lip service to those issues, and done nothing. I may not agree with all of Ron Paul’s positions, but he wants to end the “War on Drugs” and the wars in the Middle East. I’m registered as “declined to state” as my political party here in CA and I plan on voting for RP in the repudlican primary. Maybe he’ll walk his talk, it’s obvious Obama does not.

  10. I think it’s way past the time that people arrested on marijuana charges and their attorneys realized that there is a proven procedure to block prosecution and conviction without plea bargaining by challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. Please contact me for detailed information: kjohn39679@aol.com

  11. My cash flow and profits have gone up. The cost of bribes and assassinations has gone up a bit, too, but my cartel is still richer this year than last. Viva the drug war!

  12. It’s distressing to see how the Federal Government continues to prosecute medical patients and dispensaries in states where it’s been medically made legal. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016250001_marijuanaspokane19m.html Not only could we not be arresting 750,000 citizens and giving them criminal records and all the hardship that comes with that, we could be saving federal tax dollars by respecting a state’s rights to self govern. It’s odd that while the science behind cannabis continues to prove it’s medical and theraputic value we continue to wage war on a plant and create an entire economy around prosecuting those that use it instead of embracing it and creating an economy of health, prosperity, & a cleaner environment (via hemp and hemp products vs petroleum based) Insanity!!

  13. Ron paul and Gary Johnson are the only 2 marijuana educated politicians running in 2012 for President. Both of these intelligent men aprove of legalizing marijuana for personal and medicinal use. They also believe in personal responsibility as well as liberty for the American people.They are also firm believers in the free market and allowing businesses to invest and prosper all on their own the way the free market is supposed to work with no government intervention and no bailouts. That is why they have my vote. Personally I hope that Gary Johnson is asked by Ron Paul to be his running mate as I believe they would make an excellent team for 2012. Both men are business minded people and can if given the opportunity bring about a renewed prosperity for the United States with our economy, personal freedom as well as Liberty. .

  14. Please take a moment to follow this link and sign the petition which requests that all those arrested for marijuana only related offenses to be granted a full pardon. In addition to releaseing those currently incarcerated, this would also reinstate the rights lost by those with previous convictions, such as the right to vote. Here’s the link: http://wh.gov/gRZ. Thanks for your support.

  15. The Romney, and Perry types if elected are going to go ape for more of the same BS. I hope somebody out there can put out the names, and home-addresses of the Big-Pharma CEO’s. These are the out-of-control greedy Corporate Facists who are legally bribing these politicians. All these people belong in prison for this insanity of incarcerating sick people in wheelchairs.

  16. Please take a moment to follow this link and sign the petition which requests that all those arrested for marijuana only related offenses to be granted a full pardon. In addition to releasing those currently incarcerated, this would also reinstate the rights lost by those with previous convictions, such as the right to vote. Here’s the link: http://wh.gov/gRZ.

    Thanks for your support.

  17. This is a disturbing set of statistics, but fundamentally misleading and many of the comments reflect the confusion that results. The statistics are “uniform” – i.e. a compilation of federal and state totals. Hence, the FBI (i.e. the Federal government did not make 750,000 arrests for simple marijuana possession, or anything like that). The states did. That is not Obama’s fault. Our focus needs to be on the state governments and on the U.S. Congress (which is responsible for the classification of cannabis as a schedule 1 controlled substance, despite all evidence to the contrary, including the U.S. Governement’s own use of cannabis for medical purposes). Yes, the laws need to change, but pointing a finger at Obama as though he were an all-powerful king is naive at best.

  18. As a former Vietnam Era, Marine Corps officer, who has been smoking marijuana for nearly 50 years, I have concluded that the United States Government is THE most oppressive regime on the face of the earth!

  19. Someone please ask Ron Paul and Gary Johnson what they (either) will expect to do about the longstanding Republican Party policy of being in bed with the tobacco $igarette corporations (John H. Fish from R. J. Reynolds and Bruce Gates from Philip Morris both on John Boehner’s advisory council) and polls showing Republican voters are twenty points more in favor of cannabis prohibition than Democrats.

  20. Homeland security, longstanding outdated marijuana prohibition, in the last year, the government made playing poker online essentially illegal. The land of the free isn’t looking so free anymore.

    Proposition 19 for the outright legalization of marijuana in California was very close to passing in 2010. With a more thorough and coordinated effort, it could easily have passed. California usually leads the way in these efforts, so lets keep our fingers crossed for 2012.

  21. A crime is a crime and I am glad those 750,000 arrests were made for possesion. It is seriously disturbing that so many seem to think it is ok to commit a CRIME.
    There are far to many people willing to break the law by illegally purchasing and smoking pot. Marijuana IS addictive otherwise people would not be willing to break the law to obtain and abuse it.
    Look at what classes are primarily buying and using marijuana on a regular basis. You will find that the majority of the arrests made last year (over 95%!) came from the middle class down to poverty level. This drug that all of you ‘supporters’ are so in favor of seems to inhibit financial success!
    Laws are made to protect the people and to preserve moral values. How are any of you setting good moral examples to our nation’s youth by breaking the law and showing your addiction to illegal mind altering substances?
    Truly sad indeed…

    • How is using marijuana a crime and how even growing a plant is a crime as a crime need a victim.
      for example you kill your self drinking and it legal to make wine and beer but not brandy or other distilled alcohol (except in New Zealand) is stupidly illegal and it perfectly legal to grow you own tobacco and smoke it almost everywhere and second hand smoke has been proven almost as deadly and perfectly legal to do which is insane

  22. I feel if it is legalized for medicinal use in Washington DC or Nations Capital it should automatically be legalized in ever state..If our NATIONS Capital Allows it why wouldn’t the rest of the states. Think about it.

  23. […] A new report from the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) concludes that the United States’s prison system has fully returned to the 18th-century. In 2012, there were roughly 356,268 inmates with severe mental illnesses in prisons and jails, while only 35,000 people with the same diseases were in state psychiatric hospitals, reports Mother Jones. And the worst part is that many of the mentally ill inmates are, like others in the correction system, imprisoned due to minor violations. […]

  24. Jon Peditto is a respected 54 year-old wedding photographer from Mays Landing, New Jersey. He is also a marijuana grower and activist. After being arrested on Aug 7, 2012, Jon admitted to growing 17 marijuana plants in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. On October 29, 2015, he was convicted in an Ocean County, NJ court of maintaining a ‘drug manufacturing facility’. Jon is currently being held at the Ocean County Jail until his sentencing on December 23.

    Under the current New Jersey law, Jon’s first degree conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

    Find out more about Jon’s case here:


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