Polls show a majority of Americans favor re-legalization of marijuana. Two states have re-legalized marijuana, 16 states have decriminalized it (i.e., no prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount for personal use), and 20 states have re-legalized marijuana for medical use.
Despite all this, a new FBI report finds that marijuana arrests continued at near-record levels in 2012.
And the vast majority of these arrests were for simple possession.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report, an estimated 749,824 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana in 2012. More than 87% of marijuana arrests were for mere possession.
Further, marijuana arrests accounted for nearly half (42.4 percent) of all drug arrests last year. Thus the War on Drugs is largely a war on small-time marijuana users.
Nationwide, police make an average of one marijuana arrest every 48 seconds.
Meanwhile, 59.9% of rapes, 53.2% of all violent crimes, and 81% of property crimes reported in 2012 were unsolved or did not result in arrest. Is there a connection?
“Every time a police officer makes an arrest for drugs, that’s several hours out of his or her day not spent going after real criminals. As the country has been investing more and more of its resources into prosecuting drug ‘crime,’ the rate of unsolved violent crime has been steadily increasing. Where are our priorities here?” asked retired lieutenant commander Diane Goldstein of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of police, prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement officials opposed to the War on Drugs.
Dan Riffle, a former prosecuting attorney now director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, agreed.
“Instead of punishing and stigmatizing responsible adult marijuana users, we should be focusing on serious crime. As a former prosecuting attorney myself, I believe it is irresponsible to squander our limited law enforcement resources on this disastrous public policy failure. 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.”