One In Seven Drug Prisoners Serving Time For Marijuana Offenses

Thursday, 07 January 1999

One in seven drug prisoners is behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, newly released data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals.

"Jailing thousands of marijuana offenders is a tremendous waste of judicial resources and taxpayer dollars that would be better spent targeting violent crime," NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said. He estimated that taxpayers spend approximately $900 million annually to incarcerate marijuana offenders.

Nearly 40,000 Americans are presently incarcerated in state and federal correctional facilities for marijuana violations. Of these, 28,650 marijuana offenders are state inmates, and 10,538 are federal prisoners. In all, marijuana prisoners compose 14 percent of all state and federal drug inmates.

The newly released figures appear in the January 1999 Department of Justice report: Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisoners, 1997. Previous DOJ reports omitted data regarding the number of marijuana offenders behind bars.

The report did not determine what percentage of the estimated 600,000 inmates in local jails are serving time for marijuana offenses.

For more information on marijuana incarceration rates, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751. Federal data regarding annual marijuana arrest rates is available from The NORML Foundation upon request.