With marijuana being legalized more and more throughout the country, the last thing you would expect is the number of marijuana-related arrests to increase two years in a row. However, according to data released by the FBI, this is exactly what has been happening. While marijuana is legal for recreational purposes in more than 20 percent of the country and legal for medicinal purposes in 30 states, it is still legal on a federal level. According to data, someone is arrested for marijuana possession every 48 seconds.
Cannabis Arrests Statistics
Last year 659,700 marijuana-related arrests were made. This is up from 653,249 in 2016. Of this number, 599,282 were simple possession cases, up from 587,516 in 2016. This is the number of people arrested for having marijuana on their person. On the other hand, the number of people arrested for selling and manufacturing marijuana went down from 65,734 in 2016 to 60,418 in 2017. This would indicate that less people are inclined to sell and manufacture the plant outside the law. This has been one of the goals of legalization and the data points to success on this level. However, there is cause for concern when the law goes against the will of the population.
A Government at Odds with the Will of the People
The most recent polls indicate that over 60 percent of Americans are in favor of a full legalization of marijuana for personal recreational use by adults over 21. There is over 80 percent of the population in support of legalizing the plant for medicinal purposes. Unfortunately, this has not been enough to enforce a change in federal policy and it appears as the number of lives negatively affected by prohibition keeps increasing. Every marijuana arrest can affect a person’s future and the future of those they love, as future employment, housing and financing opportunities are affected.
“At a time when more than 100 deaths per day are caused by opioid overdoses, it is foolish to focus our limited law enforcement resources on a drug that has caused literally zero,” Don Murphy, federal policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project told Forbes.
Justin Strekal, the political director for NORML, was also disturbed by the data released by the FBI. He released a statement saying, “Actions by law enforcement run counter to both public support and basic morality. In a day and age where twenty percent of the population lives in states which have legalized and nearly every state has some legal protections for medical cannabis or its extract, the time (has come – ed.) for lawmakers to end this senseless and cruel prohibition that ruins lives.”
Cities Taking Action
There are some cities across the country looking to reform the way marijuana possession is handled. It is being viewed as a racial problem, with the majority of those arrested being black or Latino despite equal use across races. Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez worked to change policy in New York City, stating that continued arrests for possession would be unjust. The city, among others have changed the marijuana possession charge to a civil citation, aiming to prevent people’s records from being harmed so that work and housing is not affected by the charge.
At the end of the day, with data like this, marijuana reform still has a long way to go.