Report: Risk of Marijuana Arrest Varies Greatly from State to State, County to County 6/30/00

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(courtesy NORML Foundation,

Washington, DC: The risk of being arrested for marijuana smoking is far greater in some states than others, and far greater in some counties within a state than in other counties within that same state. A marijuana smoker in Alaska or New York, for example, is three times more likely to be arrested than a marijuana smoker in Pennsylvania, North Dakota or Hawaii. Similarly, a smoker in New York City is nine times more likely to be arrested than a smoker in Nassau County, New York; and a smoker in Trinity County, California, is nine times more likely to be arrested than a smoker in Lassen County, California.

These are the conclusions from a new study released today by the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. According to the study's author, public policy analyst Jon Gettman, PhD, 38% of all marijuana arrests in the United States, nearly 700,000 each year, occur in only 10 counties. The complete study, including state and national maps, Dr. Gettman's commentary and analysis, and charts ranking the 50 states and counties within each state, is available online (

Gettman reviewed county and state marijuana arrest data nationwide from 1995-97. Detailed data were not available for the District of Columbia, Kansas or Vermont. Arrest counts and rates are provided in the report for 2,951 of the nation's 3,140 counties, accounting for 95.5% of the total estimated marijuana arrests for the year.

"While total marijuana arrests appear to be leveling off, they remain at the highest levels in United States history, both in absolute numbers and in terms of arrest rates," Gettman said. "The greater the level of arrests, the more important it has become for the government to justify these arrests and the accompanying economic and social costs."

County Data

Fulton County, Georgia claimed the most marijuana arrests per 100,000 population (775.76) in counties over 250,000 people, with Douglas County, Nebraska (769.82) a close second.

Smaller counties had the highest marijuana arrest rates in the country. Texas contained five counties in the top 10 arrest rates and 12 in the top 25. The national average marijuana arrest rate was 256 per 100,000 people. Hudspeth, Texas, a county with a population of 3,079 on the US-Mexico border, had the highest arrest rate in the country at 6,430.66 per 100,000 residents -- about one out of every 15 people. Daggett County, Utah, a popular tourist area near both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, with a population of only 794, had the second highest arrest rate in the country at (5,289.67).

Statewide Data

In 1997, Alaska had the highest arrest rate with 417.71 people arrested on marijuana charges per 100,000 population, followed closely by New York at 404.59. The marijuana arrest rate was the lowest in Pennsylvania with 125.57 per 100,000 population, followed by North Dakota (131.05) and Hawaii (134.37).

Police in New York state by far arrested the highest number of people on marijuana charges with 73,380, followed by California (58,068) and Texas (54,731). The state with the lowest number of marijuana arrests was North Dakota (840), followed by Delaware with 1,376 arrests.

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Issue #143, 6/30/00 ACTIVIST Alert: Shadow Conventions to Challenge Democratic and Republican Conventions | New York: Chief Judge Orders Statewide Drug Diversion Plan, Reformers Applaud Softly, Raise Caution Flags | California Sentencing Reform Initiative Draws Powerful Opponents, Reformers Dramatically Ahead in New Poll | Oregon Okays Medical Marijuana For Alzheimer's Agitation, New Initiative Moves Forward | High UN Official Calls for Global Attack on Internet Drug Information | China Marks UN Anti-Drug Day, Executes Dozens, Killings Come in Wake of McCaffrey Visit and US China Agreement | French Education Minister Broaches Cannabis Decriminalization, Ecstasy Quality Controls | Greens Nominate Nader, Questions Remain on His Support of Drug Reform Planks | Dutch Parliament Approves Resolution to Allow Regulated Marijuana Cultivation | Report: Risk of Marijuana Arrest Varies Greatly from State to State, County to County | AlertS: Free Speech, California, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Washington State | Link of the Week: Arianna Huffington on Campaign Finance and Colombia | HEA Campaign | Event Calendar | Editorial: Summary Executions

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