FBI Study Shows Marijuana Arrests Do Not Deter Use

Oct 30, 2012 , , , , , , ,


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!

9 responses to “FBI Study Shows Marijuana Arrests Do Not Deter Use”

  1. I’m curious as to what if any of the decline in the percentage of marijuana arrests could be at least partially explained by the ever increasing access to medical marijuana via legally state operated dispensaries, as well as the decisions by some states and localities to make marijuana arrests the lowest possible priority of law enforcement. Now I have not had a chance to look at the latest UCR data. But I’d be interested to know if arrest statistics for marijuana is broken down by region and state, in order to see where in particular the decreases in arrests are actually occurring — which might indicate whether the proposition laid out above holds any merit.

  2. Brad asks a good question, and I’d like to see those state level numbers as well. It certainly does look like a solid decline from 2010 to 2011, and we need to keep things moving in that direction. I’d like to know too, how many of those simple possession arrests were along with some other charge. If people are out doing other stupid things, and happen to have some weed on them when arrested, that’s very different from arresting ONLY for possession of marijuana.
    We just need to legalize it, and end this insanity. I’m not a big fan of the whole tax it movement, since it will just keep prices high. I’m ok with that though, as long as I can also grow my own at home. Just like tomatoes or any other plant. If I buy it at the store, I’ll pay taxes, but if I grow my own, no problem.

  3. I drank myself to a .618 blood alcohol level and barely survived. Ironically my near death experience occurred on 4/20, wish I would have just stuck to the grass.

  4. the decrease in arrests may also not in fact be due to people quitting, 2 other ways these numbers could be dropping is that some of the people who were caught for smoking marijuana are in prison right now, and or the fact that people are starting to find better ways of doing it without getting caught. i say if booze is legal then they should legalize pot. if you want pot to be illegal then i think yo0u need to make booze illegal. my family has a big history of alcoholism, and knowing that and my father being an alcoholic i did not want to chance being one. i have a drink now and then but growing up as a teenager and even when i turned 21 i never drank that often i chose to smoke pot. Why you ask? because it is not addictive to absolutely everyone the way alcohol is. i smoked pot from the time i was 13 years old to the time i was 21 years old and when i had my daughter i quit it cold turkey no problems at all. no withdraws no relapses and once a year on april 20th i will admit i will smoke a joint. quite honestly if something like alcohol is legal when pot isnt then i want alcohol made illegal it only seems like the fair thing to do.

  5. oh on another note its not because my personality isnt very addictive i have been seriously addicted to cigarettes since i was about 14 years old. i cant kick the habit no matter what i put down. so i know if i had made the choice to drink alcohol instead of smoke pot i would be an alcoholic right now. i actually have a very addictive personality and thats why i chose marijuana all those years ago. if it wasnt for marijuana my childreren would have an alcoholic father. put that in your rule books FBI!

  6. Whether Brad asked a “good” question or not is up for debate. Your alternative answers were probably “less good”, Craig. One year of datum is hardly a trend, and the more likely answer is that financial strain is affecting law enforcement’s (a) priorities and (b) resources. Anyone who has a public sector job would likely have an idea of what this is like. Most potheads who want to “end the insanity” are usually supportive of such measures for highly selfish reasons. The real legislative process that needs to happen is the gradual transition from penal to medical solutions. The stigma behind detox and rehab is gradually dissappearing with the public’s acceptance that addiction is a disease rather than a moral failing. Treatment, rather than incarceration, needs to be offered as the solution. “Legalize it so I can smoke it!” mentality doesn’t benefit the cause, dudes.

  7. @Dan: I don’t follow your logic that “financial strain” is a more likely answer as to why fewer arrests were made in 2011. I work for NORML in North Carolina, and about a third of the people that call us are looking for legal advice because of a recent arrest. As people are preparing their marijuana defense, they report back to us that the majority of the fines associated with “unpaid taxes” is paid to the arresting police department. There are also many reports of police weighing the entire plant, stalks, wet dirt, container and all – not just the buds – when determining the size of the bust. In turn, the police can use this weight to calculate a “street value.” They then assign (at least) two charges: manufacturing and failure to pay taxes. If/when the “unpaid taxes” are settled, we’ve heard upwards of 70% of the settlement goes to the police department. So, if police departments are feeling a financial strain (and these reports are accurate), wouldn’t they actually be motivated to make MORE marijuana arrests, not fewer?

  8. When you look at the numbers like 43% of all drug arrests are for marijuana possession, it’s pretty amazing that it is that high. When most people think about drug arrests for possession, most of the time people think it is for more harder drugs and wouldn’t think that almost half is for marijuana.

  9. the reason they keep it elligal is because there is so much money in keeping it that way,if pot was legal many people would probably stop using some pharmacutical poison and pick up a joint ,these big companies bribe the fbi and to keep it illegal so they keep making money.and since they cant create a synthetic thc strain or put a brand on it .and with pot not havin the painfull withdrawels of some of these pharma drugs,why wouldnt you decide to smoke the ganj instead…….and also to dan,ur a judgmental asshole,most people want to legalize pot for the patients and people that need it as medicine to live comfortably,,u really wanna tell me thats highly selfish you dummshit?

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