Our country's war on drugs places great emphasis on arresting people for smoking marijuana. In the last decade, 6.5 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, a greater number than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined. In 2010, state and local law enforcement arrested 853,838 people for marijuana violations. Annual marijuana arrests have nearly tripled since the early 1990s, and is the highest number ever recorded by the FBI.
As has been the case throughout the 1990s, the overwhelming majority of those charged with marijuana violations in 2010 -- 758,593 Americans (88 %) -- were for simple possession. The remaining 99,815 individuals were for "sale/manufacture", an FBI category which includes marijuana grown for personal use or purely medical purposes. These new FBI statistics indicate that one marijuana smoker is arrested every 37 seconds in America. Taken together, the total number of marijuana arrests for 2010 far exceeded the combined number of arrests for violent crimes, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Like most Americans, people who smoke marijuana also pay taxes, love and support their families, and work hard to make a better life for their children. Suddenly they are arrested, jailed and treated like criminals solely because of their recreational drug of choice. State agencies frequently step in and declare children of marijuana smokers to be "in danger", and many children are placed into foster homes as a result. This causes enormous pain, suffering and financial hardship for millions of American families. It also engenders distrust and disrespect for the law and for the criminal justice system overall. Responsible marijuana smokers present no threat or danger to America or its children, and there is no reason to treat them as criminals, or to take their children away. As a society we need to find ways to discourage personal conduct of all kinds that is abusive or harmful to others. Responsible marijuana smokers are not the problem and it is time to stop arresting them.
The ultimate goal of NORML and The NORML Foundation is to end the criminal prohibition of marijuana. We do not believe otherwise law-abiding citizens who smoke marijuana should be arrested and treated like criminals. Adults should be permitted to smoke marijuana in private. Federal prohibition of marijuana should be abolished and the states should be encouraged to experiment with different models of decriminalization.
Please read further so that you may know and exercise your rights.