Drug Law

Analyzing Marijuana Arrests Data

| by NORML

The FBI Uniform Crime Report shows marijuana arrests increased by 10,000 to the 2nd highest-levels ever recorded

The 2009 FBI Uniform Crime Report has been released.  Last year’s report showed a decrease of nearly 25,000 from 2007, but this year we find marijuana arrests increased by over 10,000 to 858,408, the 2nd-highest total ever recorded.

Over the eight-year period of the George W. Bush Administration, state and federal governments arrested over 6.4 million marijuana users, sellers, and growers.  Over the span of the Clinton Administration, another 4.9 million were arrested.  However, Mr. Clinton’s administration fueled the massive increase in marijuana arrests, starting with only 381,000 as he took office and ending with 724,000 as he left, an increase of over 90%.  Mr. Bush, while maintaining arrests between 700,000 and 900,000, only increased the arrests by over 18%.

Marijuana IS the drug war - almost 52% of all drug war arrests are for marijuana

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For the first time ever recorded, marijuana now makes up more than half of all drug arrests – 51.6%.  Overall drug arrests actually declined by 2.29% over the past year and have seen a steady five-year decline from 1.84 million arrests in 2005 to 1.66 million in 2009, an overall decline of almost 10%

Meanwhile, marijuana arrests increased this year by 1.24% and have increased over 9% from the 2005 total of 786,545.  Marijuana possession makes up 88% of all marijuana arrests – or just about 7 in 8 people busted for pot are just smoking it, not selling or growing it.  By comparison, 6 in 8 people busted for all other drugs are users, not sellers or manufacturers.

Does arresting pot smokers make violent crime decrease... or does more people smoking pot make violent crime decrease?

As drug arrests have increased steadily over the past two decades, violent crime has decreased in America.  The rate of violent crime in 1995 was 684.5 crimes per 100,000 people and now it has decreased to 429.4, the lowest rate ever recorded.  Compared to violent offenses known, police seem to make an arrest in 42%-44% of all violent crimes.

This has led to only 582,000 arrests for violent crime, also the lowest number recorded.  Since 1998 there have been more arrests for marijuana than violent crime and since 2000 there have been more arrests for marijuana possession than violent crime (save 2002).

As marijuana use has gone up, violent crimes have gone down. Coincidence?

Since arrests for drugs other than marijuana have dropped 10% in five years as violent crime arrests have dropped, we suppose one could argue that locking up more potheads has brought down violent crime… if one was ignorant enough to believe cannabis consumers are some great source of crime and violence.

We believe – and studies confirm – that cannabis use does not lead the user to commit violent acts (but that legal drug, alcohol, sure does!)  As we’ve seen the ranks of monthly marijuana users swell from 10 million to 15 million since 1991, we’ve also seen violent crime drop both overall and from a rate of 758.2 to 429.4 per 100,000 persons.

How many more murderers, rapists, batterers, thieves, molesters, burglars, frauds, cheats, and vandals would our police forces have time to investigate and our courts have time to prosecute if they weren’t spending nine hours on every marijuana possession offense?