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Drug War Rolls On With 1.5 Million Arrests Last Year

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #801)
Drug War Issues

The FBI Monday released its annual Uniform Crime Report, and the numbers show that the war on drugs continues to roll right along. Despite marijuana legalization in two states and increasing public support for policy alternatives to perpetual drug war, police arrested slightly more drug offenders than the previous year, with drug arrests accounting for nearly 13% of all arrests for any offense.

The data showed 1,552,432 arrests for drug offenses last year, some 21,000 more than the previous year. Nearly half (48.3%) were marijuana offenses, down slightly from 49.5% the previous year.

That is just under three quarters of a million (749,825) pot arrests last year, down a negligible 8,000 from 2011. Some 87% of all marijuana arrests were for simple possession, meaning that 658,231 people got popped just for holding a little weed. That's the equivalent of arresting every resident of Memphis, Boston, or Seattle. Another 91,593 were arrested for growing or selling the stuff.

Drug law violations constituted the largest number of arrests in any offense category, outstripping driving under the influence (1.28 million arrests), larceny/theft (1.28 million), simple assault (1.12 million arrests), disorderly conduct (544,000), all violent crime combined (521,000), and drunkenness (511,000). Only the number of all property crime arrests combined (1.65 million) exceeded the number of drug arrests.

The drug war juggernaut cruised on even as violent crime increased in 2012 -- the first increase in six years. Violent crimes -- rape, robbery, murder, aggravated assault -- rose 0.7% over 2011, prompting advocates to call on law enforcement to concentrate on violent crime, not drug users.

"As a former prosecuting attorney myself, I believe it is irresponsible to squander our limited law enforcement resources on this disastrous public policy failure," said Dan Riffle, Marijuana Policy Project federal policies director. "That is especially true when so many violent crimes remain unsolved. Every second spent arresting and prosecuting adults for marijuana is time that could have been spent preventing and solving real crimes."

"Each one of those arrests is the story of someone who may suffer a variety of adverse effects from their interaction with the justice system," said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) executive director Neill Franklin, a former Maryland narcotics officer. "Commit a murder or a robbery and the government will still give you a student loan. Get convicted for smoking a joint and you're likely to lose it."

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.


kickback (not verified)

Legal Cannabis nationwide would cut the annual drug arrest total in half .  It would also cut in half the annual drug war budget . The law enforcement community understands this reality . When you have ailments , do you go to your local police department or your local doctor/hospital ? Maybe you just use herbal remedies . ? You know , plant " medicine " . Forget the doctor , the pharmacists and the pharmaceutical companies . Why should they profit from an ailment that I can cure for free myself ? It`s called $$$/racket .  An Oxycontin selling pharmacists is considered a respectful member of the community . But if you sell a pill out of your prescribed bottle to a friend , then you are a criminal worthy of prosecution and imprisonment . You do the math . Pills are the devil`s brew , use plants instead . Plants are better for your health .

Wed, 09/18/2013 - 11:36pm Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

If you make cannabis legal do you think the cartels will just go away?As soon as one drug becomes legal the black market will swing it's support behind what's left.That means increased importation of all the other drugs.What is needed is an end to drug prohibition with increased education so that young people will get the real facts about the things they are putting in their bodies.As long as drugs are prohibited,there will be no real honest discourse on what the drugs do and don't do.We have already seen how this generation seems to have no idea of the dangers of prescription drugs and those are legal.With the lies and half truths that spew from the ONDCP,how can a kid possibly know what to think?When I was in school we never heard anything about drugs.What I know I learned from the street.Kids in the poorer neighborhoods had the cop in the classroom thing but took it as a joke.Most addicts still come from those poorer schools.Education isn't everything.Poverty will always play a big roll.Unfortunately,it's much cheaper to ignore drug problems than to fix them.It's also much easier to be poor if you don't care too much about what you don't have.

Thu, 09/19/2013 - 9:42am Permalink


Rick Wershe is serving a LIFE sentence for one *non-violent* drug charge he got when he was a minor (*17 years old*) back in May of 1987. Three years prior at the age of 14 yrs old Rick was recruited by the FEDs, DEA and Detroit police to work as a teenage undercover drug informant. Free Rick Wershe!!!
Letter from Ex Detroit cop ->
Letter from a former Federal agent who worked with Rick:
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Fri, 09/20/2013 - 5:58am Permalink

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