According to the latest national data released by the FBI, at least 620,000 people were arrested for simple marijuana possession alone in 2014 – a rate of 1,700 people per day, or more than 1 per minute.
The numbers, which are under-counted as some states don’t report arrest stats to the FBI, or do so on a limited basis – illustrate that more than 1 in 20 arrests were for simple marijuana possession during that year.
Near beginning of the drug war, fewer than 2 percent of arrests were for pot possession – a rate that rose steadily throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
Even as marijuana arrests are plunging in states like Washington and Colorado that have legalized recreational marijuana markets, the national trend is still climbing upward – meaning that some jurisdictions are ramping up the drug war even as a majority of people embrace legal weed.
“It’s unacceptable that police still put this many people in handcuffs for something that a growing majority of Americans think should be legal,” pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority spokesperson Tom Angell said. “There’s just no good reason that so much police time and taxpayer money is spent punishing people for marijuana when so many murders, rapes and robberies go unsolved.”
The FBI numbers show that over 50 percent of violent crimes, like murder, rape and assault, went unsolved last year in the United States.
“These numbers refute the myth that nobody actually gets arrested for using marijuana,” Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson Mason Tvert said. “It’s hard to imagine why more people were arrested for marijuana possession when fewer people than ever believe it should be a crime.”
States including California, Arizona and Nevada are planning on putting marijuana legalization measures on the ballot in 2016. As more states legalize the drug, the disparities in state-level drug enforcement are expected to draw more notice.
The total number of marijuana arrests may be declining slightly as states refuse to purse possession charges for the drug, but its important to note – that as previously mentioned – the percentage of total arrests that result from petty drug charges are on the rise.
The data also shows that drug violations are the number one cause of arrest in America and that marijuana accounted for 44.9 percent of all such drug arrests. Of the arrests for marijuana, 88.4 percent were for possession alone. Police arrest more people for drug “crimes” than any other crime.