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Marijuana Possession Arrest Rates Continue to Climb Despite Public Sentiment


Marijuana Possession Arrests on the Rise in 2010

In September, 2011 the FBI released of their annual Uniform Crime Report.  In the FBI 2010 Uniform Crime Report, statistics on cannabis related arrests, while certainly not surprising to those familiar with the marijuana debate, the lack of progress in creating just laws or modifying existing laws governing the manufacturing, distribution and use of marijuana in the United States continues to frustrate pro marijuana activists.  The number of arrests for marijuana related offenses in 2010 marks the second highest in United States history.

Marijuana related arrests have been on the rise for decades.  So what's the big deal?  For supporters of pro marijuana legislation in the U.S., 2010 appeared to offer several rays of hope that laws surrounding the legal status of marijuana would actually be improved.  The Obama administration, for instance, announced that the War on Drugs was finally over, a "war" which consumed billions of taxpayer dollars and has accomplished little more than locking up large numbers of contributing members of society for marijuana possession charges.

As evident in the data displayed in Chart 1.1 the so call "War on Drugs" might better be titled the "War on Marijuana," as over 50% of drug related arrests in 2010 were arrests for marijuana related offenses.  With laws in a growing number of U.S. states decriminalizing marijuana use under certain conditions and a pro-marijuana public sentiment more prevalent than ever before, now more than ever before, the governments War on Drugs is a war being waged against our own; a war that uses billions of taxpayer dollars every year to put innocent U.S. citizens behind bars for something as petty as weed possession.  In 2010 alone it's estimated that the U.S. sunk over $15 billion dollars into funding for the War on Drugs.  At this rate, the United States is spending approximately $500 every second to maintain this war.

Chart 1.1

Data contained in the Federal Beurea of Investigation 2010 Uniform Crime Report revealed a disturbing 750,000 individuals in the United States were arrested for violations of Federal and/or State marijuana possession laws. That's three quarters of a million of people arrested in one year for simply possessing pot.

Keep in mind that this stagerring figure of 750,000 does not include all marijuana related charges, it only represents the number of people that were arrested for violating marijuana possession laws. While violation of marijuana possession laws is by far the most prevalent marijuana related charge contributing to the alarming number of marijuana related arrests, representing roughly 88% of all arrests for violating laws pertaining to marijuana. Another 12% were arrested in the for violating official federal and/or state laws other than marijuana possession laws (see Chart 1.2).

Chart 1.2

Chart 1.2 presents data that is important to the marijuana law reform debate for two reasons; not only is it important for the obvious reason that it adds another 100,000 to the record breaking count of annual marijuana arrests in 2010, bringing the total number of people arrested in the United States for marijuana related charges in 2010 to over 850,000; Chart 1.2 is also important because it provides statistical evidence that current marijuana laws in the United States, both on a Federal and State level, are ineffective at combating the types of offenses that they are meant to address. The small red sliver in Chart 1.2 represents arrests for all marijuana related crimes with the exception of marijuana possession. That includes arrests for selling marijuana (distribution), growing cannabis plants for recreational or medicinal use (manufacturing), smuggling marijuana across state lines or national borders (trafficking), and arrests for numerous other marijuana related offenses that are far more problematic to U.S. citizens and dangerous to the general public than violations marijuana possession laws.

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