The war against drugs has left many lives ruined in its wake. Thankfully, it seems to be coming to an end as the latest crime data released on Monday shows that marijuana arrests are the lowest they’ve been since 1996. While this is promising news, it is still fairly disturbing to note that someone is arrested for marijuana possession every 49 seconds. In fact, 643,000 marijuana arrests were made in 2015. This made for 43.2 percent of all drug related arrests and 5.9 percent of all arrests. 574,000 of the arrests were for marijuana possession while arrests for marijuana sales and manufacturing made up the rest, reaching the lowest numbers in 25 years.
Good News but Not Great News
This means that 574,000 people got arrested for possession of a plant that has been found to be safer and healthier than both cigarettes and alcohol. Gum disease is the only health risk presented after long term use and cannabis has been proven to have countless medical benefits. An arrest for marijuana possession may not only lead to jail time but it can also lead to a criminal record, which will affect housing, employment and education opportunities in the future. Not to mention that several people who were jailed for marijuana possession actually died in jail.
The High Cost of Marijuana Arrests
If this isn’t bad enough, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the government spends roughly $3.6 billion dollars a year on marijuana possession charges. With the economy on the brink of disaster all the time, that’s a lot of money to spend on such a low level crime. At this stage, 25 states have legalized medical marijuana and 4 more states are voting on the subject this November. Four states plus D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana with 5 more states voting on the issue this November including California, Nevada and Maine. Many cities have now decriminalized marijuana possession, handing out civil citations instead of contributing to the number of marijuana arrests.
Arrests Against the American Voice
Polls indicate that the majority of Americans want to legalize recreational marijuana. Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority told Smell the Truth, “Polls now consistently show that a growing majority of Americans supports full legalization, and it’s about time more politicians and law enforcement caught up. Our movement is set to more than double the number of states with legalization this November, and we won’t stop pushing until the day when no one is put into handcuffs or cages just because they choose to consume cannabis.”
The Drug Policy Alliance have said that marijuana arrests are “the engine driving the U.S. war on drugs” given that they make up almost half of the drug related arrests. The DEA refused to reclassify marijuana this year, leaving it as a Schedule I drug, which is the classification given to heroin, cocaine and LSD; the highest risk drugs containing no medicinal value. This makes marijuana illegal on a federal level, despite the fact that the majority of the country disagrees with this stance. Until more steps are taken within government to end prohibition, the arrests will continue and taxpayers will pay that bill.