Washington, DC: Police arrested an estimated 786,545 persons for marijuana violations in 2005, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. The total is the highest ever recorded by the FBI, and comprised 42.6 percent of all drug arrests in the United States.
“These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor marijuana offenders,” said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, who noted that at current rates, a marijuana smoker is arrested every 40 seconds in America. “This effort is a tremendous waste of criminal justice resources that diverts law enforcement personnel away from focusing on serious and violent crime, including the war on terrorism.”
Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 88 percent some 696,074 Americans were charged with possession only. The remaining 90,471 individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes all cultivation offenses even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use. In past years, roughly 30 percent of those arrested were age 19 or younger.
“Present policies have done little if anything to decrease marijuana’s availability or dissuade youth from trying it,” St. Pierre said, noting young people in the U.S. now frequently report that they have easier access to pot than alcohol or tobacco.
The total number of marijuana arrests in the U.S. for 2005 far exceeded the total number of arrests in the U.S. for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Annual marijuana arrests have more than doubled since the early 1990s.
“Arresting hundreds of thousands of Americans who smoke marijuana responsibly needlessly destroys the lives of otherwise law abiding citizens,” St. Pierre said, adding that over 8 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges in the past decade. During this same time, arrests for cocaine and heroin have declined sharply, implying that increased enforcement of marijuana laws is being achieved at the expense of enforcing laws against the possession and trafficking of more dangerous drugs.
St. Pierre concluded: “Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers between $10 billion and $12 billion annually and has led to the arrest of nearly 18 million Americans. Nevertheless, some 94 million Americans acknowledge having used marijuana during their lives. It makes no sense to continue to treat nearly half of all Americans as criminals for their use of a substance that poses no greater – and arguably far fewer – health risks than alcohol or tobacco. A better and more sensible solution would be to tax and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco.”
YEAR MARIJUANA ARRESTS
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500. For a comprehensive breakdown and analysis of US marijuana arrests, please see NORML’s report: “Crimes of Indiscretion: Marijuana Arrests in the United States“.