Donald Trump’s first year in office saw a slight bump in the total number of Americans arrested for marijuana.
According to FBI data released today, marijuana arrests composed over 40 percent of the 1,632,921 total drug arrests made by the 12,606 U.S. law enforcement agencies in 2017. The total number of marijuana arrests was 659,700. However, 91 percent of those arrests were for simple possession, totaling just under 600,000.
So, for those who believe people don’t get arrested for marijuana possession anymore, this new data firmly proves otherwise. Those caught actually distributing cannabis only made up one in 11 arrests in 2017.
NORML noted that last year’s marijuana arrests total equaled a number that was 21 percent higher than the total number of violent offenders arrested, which came in at 518,617.
“Actions by law enforcement run counter to both public support and basic morality,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “In a day and age where twenty percent of the population lives in states which have legalized and nearly every state has some legal protections for medical cannabis or its extract, the time for lawmakers to end this senseless and cruel prohibition that ruins lives.”
The FBI report also marked the second straight year that saw marijuana arrests numbers rise nationally.
The Marijuana Policy Project also saw the new data as a sign that the finish line is still well ahead for ending outdated marijuana policies.
“Reform efforts are advancing in states around the country, but clearly there is still a lot of work to be done,” said MPP spokesman Mason Tvert. “No adult should be arrested and treated like a criminal simply for consuming a substance that is less harmful than one they can buy at the local liquor or grocery store.”
Tvert also spoke about the violent crime arrests rates.
“There were several hundred thousand incidents in which law enforcement officials spent their time and resources punishing an adult for marijuana possession rather than addressing other, more serious crimes,” Tvert said.
In 2017, there were 394 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 people, according to the FBI data. A violent crime happened once every 24.6 seconds last year. However, for every murderer arrested in the U.S. last year, 49 people were arrested for marijuana possession.
The FBI report also explained how the arrest rates vary from region to region. The sales and manufacturing of marijuana made up 3.7 percent of drug arrests nationally, anchored by high rates in the Northeast and Midwest. In both of those regions, marijuana distribution arrests made up 5.3 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. But the Northeast prosecutes three times as many people for heroin and cocaine distribution as the Midwest, presenting more arrests where the marijuana charges are tacked on. In the South, marijuana distribution arrests made up 3.8 percent of all drug arrests. But the decriminalized West Coast set the limbo bar the lowest by far, where marijuana distribution arrests made up only 1.7 percent of drug arrests.
As for how the other 91 percent of marijuana arrests broke down, the Midwest again took the lead with 48.1 percent of all drug arrests being for simple marijuana possession. This is slightly down from 2015, when a little over half of all drug arrests involved marijuana possession. The Northeast and South tied, with roughly 44 percent of all drug arrests being for simple marijuana possession. The West Coast ranked the “friendliest” to be a marijuana smoker, with only 13.6 percent of all drug arrests being for marijuana.
It does not appear that the FBI’s report includes data on the race of people being arrested for cannabis crimes.
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