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Feature: Marijuana, Drug Arrests Hit All-Time High -- Again

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #503)

The number of people arrested for marijuana offenses in the US last year was a record 829,625, according to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report. The figure marks the fourth consecutive year and 11th time in the last 15 years that marijuana arrests hit an all-time high. More than five million people have been arrested for marijuana since 2000 alone.

Overall, some 1,889,810 people were arrested on drug charges last year -- another all-time high. More than eight out of ten of all drug arrests were for possession alone, and 89% of all marijuana arrests for possession.

The continuing increases in drug arrests came as violent crime increased 1.9%, the second straight year of increases after a decade of declining violent crime rates. Property crime declined by 1.9%, mirroring the 10-year declining trend.

The total number of marijuana arrests in the US for 2006 far exceeded the total number of arrests in the US for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The number of total drug arrests was greater than that for any other offense.

No law enforcement organizations contacted by the Chronicle responded to requests for comment on the link (or lack of) between continuing high levels of drug arrests and violent crime, but representatives of groups that would like to see fewer drug arrests were quick to respond to the numbers.

"These numbers are sadly not too surprising because we put a lot of money into arresting drug users," said Doug McVay, policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy. "That's what we're paying police to do. Law enforcement has to produce body counts to justify increased funding, and the way to do it is with drug users. There's an endless supply."

"These numbers refute the common myth that police will look the other way when it comes to personal marijuana possession," said Scott Morgan of Flex Your Rights, a group that instructs citizens on how to effectively exert their right to be free of unwarranted searches and seizures. "Liberal attitudes about pot have created a false sense of security for many, but the truth is that you can get in big trouble for it. In any police encounter, the best strategy is to refuse searches and not answer incriminating questions," he advised.

"The steady escalation of marijuana arrests is happening in direct defiance of public opinion," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Voters in communities all over the country, from Denver to Seattle to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Missoula County, Montana, have passed measures saying they don't want marijuana arrests to be a priority, yet marijuana arrests have set an all-time record for four years running. It appears that police are taking their cue from White House drug czar John Walters, who is obsessed with marijuana, rather than the public who pays their salaries," he said.

DEA post-raid publicity photo
"These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor marijuana offenders," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), who noted that at current rates, a marijuana smoker is arrested every 38 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," he said.

McVay pointed to the low criminal offense clearance rates also contained in the Uniform Crime Report. For property crimes overall, the clearance rate is only 16%, while even for murder, it was only 60%. "Those numbers are criminal," said McVay. "There's only one chance out of six that the cops will find out who broke into your home or stole your car. If the police weren't busy arresting drug users, maybe we wouldn't be seeing such low clearance rates and this increase in violent crime."

"Two other major points standout from today's record marijuana arrests," St. Pierre continued. "Overall, there has been a dramatic 188% increase in marijuana arrests in the last 15 years -- yet the public's access to pot remains largely unfettered and the self-reported use of cannabis remains largely unchanged. Second, America's Midwest is decidedly the hotbed for marijuana-related arrests with 57% of all marijuana-related arrests. The region of America with the least amount of marijuana-related arrests is the West with 30%. This latter result is arguably a testament to the passage of various state and local decriminalization efforts over the past several years."

"The bottom line is that we are wasting billions of dollars each year on a failed policy," Kampia said. "Despite record arrests, marijuana use remains higher than it was 15 years ago, when arrests were less than half the present level, and marijuana is the number one cash crop in the US. Marijuana is scientifically proven to be far safer than alcohol, and it's time to start regulating marijuana the same way we regulate wine, beer and liquor."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the whore known as Uncle Sam and his DEA enforcers are evil, insidious, gansters that should be treated accordingly!

Arm & defend yourself from dumb evil asshole soldiers and their ilk... they are criminal agents of an unlawful/unconstitutional federal policy... prohibition!

You have a right to self-defense... maybe it's time to start enforceing it!

Billy B Blunt
Tacoma, WA

Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Well most people wouldn't want to accept the truth in this, however majority of people know this is the truth and it is's wrong and unnatural, unlike the plant which is all natural, how can it be acceptable to rob a person of their life their hopes, dreams, and goals for using drugs their not doing any harm to anyone, other than them selves; if in fact they are harming them selves. But it is somehow acceptable to let someone who murders, rapes, assaults, and robs a person of possessions their which they have worked so hard to obtain. It is somehow acceptable to let them get away with their actions, just to arrest some one for using a plant that grows naturally in the world. What will it take for people to realize this is doing more harm than good.


Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:08pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

i agree with the above person, weare wasting time puting prople behind bars becauseof pot use and they are getting excessive amounts of prison time for such a minor offense. while he states that murders, rapes and assults are being treated withl less time, compared to drug related crimes.aparently our justice system s a little confused or or makes their own rules against te system. the judges are in control to make their decisons regardless of our constitutinal rights. there is no answer.

Fri, 10/05/2007 - 5:34am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The photo shows a weapon, some cash, and some bags of vegetable material. Guilt by association is the game they (DEA) play.It's kinda like the gradeschool books that have pictures of four things, and they ask, which thing is not associated with the other three? "They" and the news media do it all the time. CNN shows a picture of hypodermic needle, lines of white powder,a glass pipe, and leaf? Which of these does not belong with the others? Obvious I would think.

Fri, 09/28/2007 - 7:15pm Permalink
Madam PJ (not verified)

I wonder that if enough of us got together and asked our Executive Branch(after George Bush leaves office), maybe with a petition and a few hundred of us there, and ask for weed to be 100% legal for ONE YEAR, and give them that time to do the studies on how much tax payer money was saved since we didn't have cops wasting their time busting the guy riding down the road with a dime bag and a bong.

It could also be regulated so that you could only smoke in places that designate cigarette useage. And without commercialization, at least for the first year.

We could lie down the ground rules saying that if the number of fatal car accidents goes up because the person was high, or if the level of violence rose even higher, then it could stay illegal, but if nothing at all changed, or if crime and fatal car crashes went down, then maybe another probation period of another year, and if things keep improving over the next few years, that it actually becomes legal for good. And they can tax the hell out of marijuana companies, (because I'll be growing my own) for the funds 'lost' because there isn't one of us getting arrested and paying $300+ every 37 seconds.

Compromise is GOOD for humanity. Anyone else agree?

Mon, 10/01/2007 - 12:46pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

"Voters in communities all over the country, from Denver to Seattle to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Missoula County, Montana, have passed measures saying they don't want marijuana arrests to be a priority, yet marijuana arrests have set an all-time record for four years running."

Are there any statistics showing the rate of marijuana arrests in the communities that have voted lowest priority laws? And if so, how do victim-based crime arrests change when the police aren't distracted by having "an endless supply" of drug possessors to arrest. I would love to see anything that anyone knows about.

Mon, 10/01/2007 - 6:57pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The only terriosts I see is the Government! I feel sad for the American people getting treated this way. Why don't they just lock EVERYONE UP!
Business owner-25 employees

Thu, 10/04/2007 - 11:56am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

With the number of marijuana user in this country and the number that will be there even with the outrageous number of arrests, facism is growing as the only way to regulate. Why can't we have the freedom to relax in our own way. Why do you have to continue to persecute us, I'm not going to stop smoking marijuana anytime soon. Until it is legal for me to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes, I will do it illegally. I would love to smoke pot legally under your rules just like I smoke cigarettes. But until you give me that oppurtunity, I can't follow these ridiculous laws. We need the old and frail of past generations to make way for the new political and social impact we will make before my life's end. It's just a matter of how long these old, stuck-up ideas of freedom are reinvented. This internet generation understanding that fighting from the inside and using the system are the ways to get our message through and thoughts heard.

Fri, 10/05/2007 - 5:00am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Dude, you didn't even get the lyrics right. they will never legalize pot in this country, the government makes way too much money off of it. Think of how many prison industry jobs would be lost if pot was legalized. Keeping people in cages is a billion dollar industry, and is increasingly privatized here in the States. But the real reason that none has mentioned yet that they will not legalize it is because the reason they illegalized it in the first place was to keep people of color down. In the first drug czar's speach to congress about marijuana, he said that "Marijuana makes darkies think they are as good as white men" and "marijuana makes negroes believe they can have our white women" and my favorite, "marijuana is used heavilly by musicians, and I'm not talking about the good kind of musician, I'm talking about the jazz kind." White people get mixed up in it, but the drug laws in this country are designed so the government can lock up and exert control over people of color. Nothing is ever going to get changed from the inside out. its time we took back out country.

Wed, 01/30/2008 - 1:52am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Do we ( the American) people have the will to stand up for our rights as our fore fathers did? Or will we simply allow every freedom we have to erode away.

The problem is that most people don't smoke pot. Most don't care if it's legalized, but it doesn't concern them because it's not an issue to them. What they are missing is it's a freedom issue. If you don't stand up for the rights of others who will stand up for your rights?

I have become increasingly upset over what I see happening to OUR country. I'm also very scared of what is in store for us. How many of Americans honestly believe we are the land of the free? How many honestly believe we have more freedom than England, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, etc, etc.

We Americans are mushrooms that keep our heads in the sand as freedom after freedom is slowly revoked. Yesterday it was islamic extremists that were terrorists. Today pot growers are. Tomorrow anyone that's not a Christian will be. How long...Seriously how long before you are a terrorist because YOU don't agree with something the government has said.

You want a solution to the drug war? Then we all need to ban together and FIGHT for freedom again. This country needs a very real change. How many people live in this country? Doesn't it seem unlikely that in a fair world both a father and a son would be president? What about a husband and a wife? There is an elite class in this country. There will never again be a common man president as long as there is an electoral college. It's time to fight for change people. It's time to get up from the keyboard and make a stand for what's ours.

Oh back to the drug war. How can you tell someone they can't grow a plant...that Mother Nature put here? How can you tell someone they can't puff a doobie or even snort coke for that matter. It's not anyone's say but the person doing it. I'm not advocating drug usage. I'm advocating freedom. Stop the war on drugs as it currently is and use that money to educate the people. Use the money to get addicts to rehab. Use the money to chase violent crimes. But don't use the money to fly over someone's house to scan for grow lights. You want to stop violent crimes surrounding drug usage then make them legal and regulate them.

People I say stand up and Fight for your rights. Even if you don't agree with Marijuana usage you owe it to yourself and the people that died for this country to Fight for Freedom. The time is coming when Americans will ask themselves what is so great about their country. Well there is nothing great about it unless we have the resolve to fight (and possibly die) for our freedoms. Not for oil, not for politics, but for freedom.

So I ask this question:
How many Americans would risk there life for Freedom?

The sooner people realize that DemoCRAZY has broken down in this country the sooner we can begin to repair it. The people have no voice in this country today. They haven't for awhile.

I'm dis-heartned and saddened at the current state of affairs in this country...and yes I support the legalization of marijuana, but more importantly I support the legalization of Freedom.

Let's all say it together.


Wed, 02/06/2008 - 5:29pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I was arrested for .4 grams of weed.That still weighs less than a half of a dollar bill.WTF. Who did I hurt if I would have smoked that who is the victim other than me spending over a thousand dollars fighting this in court and still have to goto JAIL for 4 days. I know 4 days isn't much and no matter what happens it will not change my mind about any of this and I will still continue to smoke once I am done with probation. I love the tree of life it has brought so much into my life i will never turn my back on the blessed plant and be willing to die for the freedom to smoke and grow a wonderful plant so I would not' have the fear of the govt taking away my life and throwing me in a cage for it


Fri, 05/30/2008 - 3:48pm Permalink

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