Incarceration Nation — Marijuana Arrests For Year 2009 Near Record High

[Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from NORML’s weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s media advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for NORML’s free e-zine here.]

Police prosecuted 858,408 persons for marijuana violations in 2009, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. The arrest total is the second highest ever reported by the FBI, and marks a 1.3 percent increase in the number of arrests reported in 2008 (847,864).

According to the report, marijuana arrests now comprise more than one-half (approximately 52 percent) of all drug arrests reported in the United States. A decade ago, marijuana arrests comprised just 44 percent of all drug arrests.

Approximately forty-six percent of all drug prosecutions nationwide are for marijuana possession.

“The numbers tell the story; the enforcement of criminal marijuana laws and the prosecution of marijuana offenders, in particular minor marijuana possession defendants, is driving the present drug war,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Those who claim otherwise would be better off advocating for a long-overdue reprioritization law enforcement resources and concerns.

“It makes no sense to continue to prosecute Americans for their use of a substance that poses far fewer health risks than alcohol or tobacco. A better and more sensible solution would be to legalize and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, as is presently being proposed in California by Proposition 19.”

Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 88 percent (758,593 Americans) were charged with possession only. The remaining 99,815 individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes virtually all cultivation offenses.

Regionally, the percentage of marijuana arrests was highest in the Midwest (62 percent of all drug arrests) and southern regions (56 percent of all drug arrests) of the United States, and lowest in the west, where pot prosecutions comprised only 40 percent of total drug arrests.

In 2007, the FBI reported 872,721 marijuana prosecutions in the United States, the highest total on record.

88 thoughts

  1. When they legalize. I’m gonna go to the unemployment office’stand outside and smoke a joint and then throw rotten eggs at all the lawyers.And I’ll even bring a joint and a dozen eggs for you friend.

  2. The government, lulled people into a false sense of tolerance by allowing medicinal medical cards. Led the public to believe that marajuana/cannibis laws and law enforcers were going to ease up on this issue. The exact opposite has happened. I feel for those patients who signed up for the legal-medicinal-marajuana-cards because now they are on a database and the government probably has an FBI file on each and every person who even applied for a card. Think of all the people who were denied too. What is next on this imaginary war on drugs? Putting all the medicinal weed card holders in an internment labor camps?? It truly feels like we are on a prison planet. Life imitating art? or art imitating life? GOD SAVE THE PEOPLE!

  3. the cannabis “criminal” stats rise when republicans have more power. they hate hippies.

    almost no republicans partake of the righteous herb. it’s like impossible mind meld.

    in the future we may have to de-fog a few million.

  4. Prop 19 needs your help everyone!!! My wife and I are in TX and we sent 25.00. It will take our money and votes so give, give, give, and vote!!!!


  5. I was busted in ’09, luckily it happened in NC where it is partially decriminalized, it still ended up costing me $2,000 after courts and Drug Abuse Treatment (a place filled with people that had DUI’s, I was normally the only cannabis charge in attendance). So I constantly debated my therapist in group sessions and 100% of the DUI cases agreed with me in that marijuana isn’t the “devil’s weed” the government and even the therapist made it out to be. I just hope to one day be able to freely and safely purchase marijuana that I know hasn’t been grown with pesticides and chemicals and that I won’t be arrested for enjoying the greatest “weed” on the planet.
    I’m still praying for decrim laws to be passes in VA (where I’m at now) cuz if u get caught up here ur done

  6. RE: SANDY Says:
    September 15th, 2010 at 6:20 pm
    “The government, lulled people into a false sense of tolerance by allowing medicinal medical cards. Led the public to believe that marajuana/cannibis laws and law enforcers were going to ease up on this issue. The exact opposite has happened.”

    SANDY, I believe you have hit the nail on the head. Obama & Holder talk a good game about halting DEA raids in States with legal MMJ, yet those raids continue. Sometimes there are no arrests, but valuable product is seized with distribution disrupted, and always there is a collection of patient & physician information totally in violation of HIPPA medical confidentiality.

    Either the District Attorneys, Federal prosecutors, and the DEA are all rogue elements operating independently but in concert, or our political leadership and government are lying to us. Tenets of Occam’s Razor would tend toward the second explanation, especially considering the USA government’s long history of obfuscation, outright lies, and propaganda in support of Prohibition 2.0’s War on People.

    The USA is the prison planet. A revolution at the ballot box is needed to overthrow the police state, which is supported by Democrats and Republicans alike. Vote for the USA Green Party.
    And vote for Prop 19, in support of the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th Amendments of the Constitution, before we the people need to make use of the 2nd.

  7. I got to be part of the statistic this year. Glad I could contribute to society. Wouldn’t it be neat if we could live as we pleased? I just don’t understand how it ever became “ok” to tell someone else how to live. Isn’t that all this crazy law is about, telling someone else their way of doing things isn’t alright. This leads into a deeper issue but why is it that we must all be the same?

  8. the drug warriors are worried about proposition 19 passing so they cant line thier pockets by arresting millions more they are already spreading thier lies about the harms of legalised pot on society so they can try to defeat prop 19 how can they not see that pot has been illegal for over 30 years and it hasnt harmed society only the prohibition of it has law enforcement has said if 19 passes they will sue to have it overturned ,how can we possiblly stop them even if we win on prop19

  9. Unreal, I am glad I live in the west… Its a sad thing that without statistics the government would probably never listen or EVER realize how damaging marijuana prohibition is!!

    I would love to see it legal and hear about over 3/4 a million arrests being dealt to other REAL DANGEROUS activity!

    VOTE YES PROP 19!!

  10. i think this is really stupid this is 2010 not the 1920s i personally believe the fight on marijuana is a war against the generations im 17 almost 18 my dad is 47 granted he grew up in or around the time of the 60s he still believe heavyly in the propaganda.(it doesnt help that he is a retired ex cop) he busted me the other day and gave the whole speech of killign my brain cells and ending up on the streets and ruinign my life. i consider myself to be fairly responsible( but its not my opinion that matters it all how other view me) i only smoke after a hard day of work i come hoem my back usually kills me from lifting pallets and other boxes of considerable weigth for roughly 5 hours a day (nine hours on the weekend i usually work 5 days a wekk) and im also going to school full time where i have maintained straight A’s. it seems liek the younger generations such as myself are ok with the use of marijuana while the older generations that grew up with nixon’s war on drugs as well as the racist propaganda and many myths i believe that the older generations refuse to belive in the new scientific evidence and they stick to the believes that they grew up with it. even my boss talked to me he told me he buried 2 of his friends who smoked pot and he was going to test me the moment he had reason to do so. since i quit ive noticed many changes like my body is now in constant pain because i refuse to take a pain killer and ive lost 12 pounds when i was trying to gain weight im 17 5 10 and weigh 124 pounds because of my adderall i look liek a jew from the holocaust(sry if thats offensive) this needs to be legalised and soon i could gain alot from its use

  11. Police prosecuted 858,408 persons for marijuana violations in 2009


    It will end.

    Proposition 19 will send a clear message

  12. that’s the government for ya. let booze be legal so people can get drunk go out and kill innocent kids,women,elderly and men. if you get got with pot your busted the drunks they sober up and go home the pot heads go to jail. B.S. as if for you nic WAKE UP, what are a over paid under worked government employee?

  13. Cannabinoids Kill Cancer and Our Government Has Known for 36 Years
    there really is massive proof that the suppression of medical cannabis represents the greatest failure of the institutions of a free society, medicine, journalism, science, and our fundamental values.
    Go look it up and while you are at it do a lil research on Bill Cooper. ~~~Mary Jane~~~

  14. And the drug czar K states, “There are very few marijuana arrests” Liar liar pants on fire. We now have numbers! You would think the numbers would have gone down with Obama in office. But….He’s a liar like the rest of them, including Palin. I don’t trust her either. If we are going to push this, we the people will have to do it ourselves! Donate to Norml.

  15. Yay! There’s me; arrest no. 269,420! I thought the only statistic I was in was percentage of people smarter than politians, of course there is 99 percent of people in that catagorie lol. Oh i remember that day, ironically arrested at 4:20 in the morning on the way home from work, thrown in a cold cell, my vehicle got pounded, and money was stolen from me by Johnson County… Please keep up the work NORML!!!

    One Love

  16. Prop 19 needs to pass in California, marijuana prohibition has gone on for far too long and ruined too many lives. The government can spout all the bullshit rhetoric it wants, but the truth is marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. You never hear of someone turning violent under the influence of marijuana. Its time for a change and prop 19 if it passes will be a damn good start.

  17. Come on, guys. Those 850,000 people would probably turn into murderers, rapists, and child molesters if our great and honorable government didn’t take them off the streets.

    If they don’t have a criminal record, how will we know who has used marijuana at least once in their lives?

    How will we know who never to hire, no matter how qualified they are or how satisfied their previous employers might have been?

    How will we know who’s children to send away to abusive foster homes?

    How will we know who to shoot first and ask questions never?

  18. Yeah, my friend is part of this group. Luckily his court-appointed lawyer got him on deferred adjudication and then the judge was nice enough to let him off when he still owed like 10 bucks and a couple of hours of community service. I still call bullcrap cause it pisses me off how much they ruined his life and for a plant that doesn’t ruin your freaking life. UGHHH!!!!!!!!

  19. SANDY Says:
    September 15th, 2010 at 6:20 pm
    The government, lulled people into a false sense of tolerance by allowing medicinal medical cards. Led the public to believe that marajuana/cannibis laws and law enforcers were going to ease up on this issue. The exact opposite has happened. I feel for those patients who signed up for the legal-medicinal-marajuana-cards because now they are on a database and the government probably has an FBI file on each and every person who even applied for a card. Think of all the people who were denied too. What is next on this imaginary war on drugs? Putting all the medicinal weed card holders in an internment labor camps?? It truly feels like we are on a prison planet. Life imitating art? or art imitating life? GOD SAVE THE PEOPLE!

    I said a year ago that they would increase thier arrests and they havent stopped.

    Yes this is a prison planet in which we are electing our our guards and wardens and paying the to treat us terribly.

  20. “Prohibition cannot be enforced,for the simple reason the majority of Americans do not want it enforced and are resisting its enforcement,That being so, the orderly thing to do ,under our form of government, is to abolish a law that can not be enforced, a law in which the people of the country do not want enforced.” Fiorello LA Guardia before the abolish of liquor, circa 1937. we need to learn from LA Guardia we need to abolish the prohibition of marijuanna

  21. Okay so what happens when 858,408 people demand a Jury and a full blown trial. As a person who has sept into a Courtroom and done just that knows they DO NOT have the money and that is a sure fire way for us to bring these unlawful unjust people to their knees. Want your country back? Break the banks! If you become one of those 858,408 people arrested then DEMAND your Fast Speed Trial and a Jury as well. These folks can run no more, they can not hide behind those bullshit lies once told. Look what is happening in the election today. We the people are tired of these foolish unlawful moral police. This Nov. we must fire most of these folks by voting.
    I for one will do everything I can to break the Banks and the Legislators, I will aid them in their own destruction, it long over due.
    We can take back our country from the fools in a peaceful way by attacking their pockets and fighting in Court. we are the future juries and I say,” Jury Nullification”, Jury Lawlessness” and they will be defeated.
    All I ask as the summer crops come in is that we fight for what we know to be right and just. No more to the back of the bus for us. Time to fill those prisons with our wayward government employees. We have room.
    It is time to band together and come to the aid of each other. The best way is to gety on those Juries, support only those in Government that will go public in this war on the unjust government laws and action that we know is in violation of the Constitution. These folks have committed treason while have sorn an oath to up hold our Nation Constitution.
    We are going to win this, injustice will not prevail, it never has.
    Time to let history repeat itself since we were unable to learn from the past.
    Remember, “Let them eat cake.” well we are there again.

  22. The greatest of all injustice is that which goes under the name of law; and of all sorts of tyranny the forcing the letter of the law against the equity is the most insupportable.
    – Sir Roger L’ Estrange

    “”The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” ” Thomas Jefferson

    The rule of law has been subverted and has become the law of rule. Those that rule the law will become zealots, jingoes, and hypocrites.
    Raymond DiPasquale

  23. David762 (#18) did well in expanding on what’s correct in SANDY (#11). Looking at the chart, it seems that, while arrest levels shot up during the Nixon Administration, they stayed in the 400k range during the next decade including the Carter Admin. They seem to fall off slightly during Bush I (down to around 300k) – before *skyrocketing* during Clinton’s two terms, then accelerating further under Bush II, to a record high level that has at best leveled off under Obama.

    I’d only add to David762’s recommendation of the Green Party, that in California we have another option, the Peace and Freedom Party. To my mind, these are the only two parties worth considering when you register to vote, and when you cast your ballot in November at the same time as you’re voting Yes on Prop. 19.

    (Update on that article – AB 2254 is off the table pending the November election. Which makes it all the more important to turn out and vote Yes on 19, and vote for 100% anti-prohibitionist legislators, i.e., Peace and Freedom or Green.)

  24. I do need to take issue, however, with part of SANDY (#11) above.

    Even though Prop. 215 (medicinal cannabis) does not affect Federal law or policy, it’s still been a net positive. Many people who need cannabis for medical purposes are getting it (semi-)legally who would never have had access before. Some jurisdictions are outright refusing to cooperate with federal authorities and protect medical recommendations in strict confidentiality. Others have not been so good, of course.

    But more than anything else, it’s advanced the debate. The question has shifted from “how harsh should prohibition be”, to “when and how should prohibition be repealed”. From “probably not in my lifetime” to “it’s only a matter of time, and it’s looking like soon”. So far from bemoaning the situation, I say “Huzzah for Prop. 215! All out for Prop. 19!”

    (Yes, I do really talk like that sometimes.) 😉

  25. I like the idea of creating a costly logjam within the court system. If I could add one other suggestion, it would be to PLANT SEEDS. Every where you can. Have so many plants growing that it would overload law enforcement. I live in a backwoods mid-west state where it’s the #1 cash crop, yet the government is so ignorant to think they will eradicate it. Welcome to the grand delusion!!!

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