Marijuana Arrests Drop for First Time Since 2002

Sep 14, 2009

arrests, drug war, FBI, law enforcement, NSDUH


U.S. marijuana arrests declined somewhat in 2008, according to figures released by the FBI today. According to the just-released Uniform Crime Reports, U.S. law enforcement made 847,863 arrests on marijuana charges last year, 89 percent of which were for possession, not sale or manufacture – more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined. One American was arrested on marijuana charges every 37 seconds.

Marijuana arrests peaked in 2007 at over 872,000, capping five years of all-time record arrests.

The new report comes on the heels of the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released Sept. 10, which showed an increase in both the number and percentage of Americans who admit having used marijuana. In  2003, when marijuana arrests set what was then an all-time record of 755,186, 40.6 percent of Americans aged 12 and over said they had used marijuana. In 2008, that figure was 41 percent, or 102,404,000 Americans willing to tell government survey-takers that they had used marijuana.

Apparently, massive numbers of arrests didn’t curb marijuana use.

“This slight dip in the number of marijuana arrests provides a small amount of relief to the tens of millions of American marijuana consumers who have been under attack by their own government for decades,” said Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia in a statement issued by MPP today. “It’s time to stop wasting billions of tax dollars criminalizing responsible Americans for using a substance that’s safer than alcohol, and to put an end to policies that simply hand this massive consumer market to unregulated criminals.”

To put that arrest figure in perspective, it’s equivalent to arresting every man, woman and child in the city of San Francisco – plus about 23,000 more people from nearby suburbs – in just one year. Do you feel safer?