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Marijuana Arrests Driving America’s ‘Drug War,’ Latest FBI Report Shows

Marijuana arrests now comprise more than one-half (52 percent) of all drug arrests in the United States.
 
 
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 Police made 853,838 arrests in 2010 for marijuana-related offenses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s  annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. The arrest total is among the highest ever reported by the agency and is  nearly identical to the total number of cannabis-related arrests reported in 2009.

According to the report, marijuana arrests now comprise  more than one-half (52 percent) of all drug arrests in the United States.  An estimated 46 percent of all drug arrests are for offenses related to marijuana possession.

 

“Today, as in past years, the so-called ‘drug war’ remains fueled by the arrests of minor marijuana possession offenders, a  disproportionate percentage of whom are ethnic minorities,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a prepared statement. “It makes no sense to continue to waste law enforcements’ time and taxpayers’ dollars to arrest and prosecute Americans for their use of a substance that  poses far fewer health risks than alcohol or tobacco.”

Of those charged with marijuana law violations, 750,591 (88 percent) were arrested for marijuana offenses involving possession only. The remaining 103,247 individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes virtually all cultivation offenses.

By region, the percentage of marijuana arrests was highest in the Midwest (63.5 percent of all drug arrests) and southern regions (57 percent of all drug arrests) of the United States and lowest in the west, where pot prosecutions comprised only 39 percent of total drug arrests.

By contrast, the percentage of arrests for heroin and cocaine was lowest in the Midwest (14 percent of all arrests) and highest in the northeast (29 percent of all arrests).

Overall, law enforcement agents nationwide arrested  1,638,846 people last year for drug abuse violations,  surpassing arrests for all other crimes.

Since 2000, law enforcement have reported making an estimated  7.9 million arrests for marijuana violations.

 

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and is the co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink (2009, Chelsea Green).

 
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