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As Legalization Grows Across US, FBI Reports Increased Marijuana Arrests

Jocelyn Roman

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As Legalization Grows Across US, FBI Reports Increased Marijuana Arrests
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  • Over 90% of the marijuana-related arrests were due to possession.
  • Marijuana arrests have risen since 2016, which is the last time that these arrests reflected a drop in the numbers.

One of the big statistics that the public has debated is the affect that legalization has had on crime rates and of illicit use of the substance. Proponents of legalization have reported a drop in the illicit use among teenagers as more states have pursued legalization. However, the exact opposite data is stated amongst consumers that don’t want to see cannabis legalized at all, so which one is right? According to a recent report by Forbes, the FBI recently stated that marijuana arrests rose again last year, despite the influx of states adding legalization.

The data released by the FBI on Monday shows that there was a total of 663,367 arrests for marijuana offenses in 2018. In 2017, cannabis arrests were at 659,700, rising by 6,000 from the year before. Presently, a total of 11 states have legalized recreational use. These numbers do not account for the decisions of Michigan to legalized marijuana and Illinois’s push to end the prohibition in the least year.

Before 2016, there was a steady decline in the number of cannabis arrests being made, which is the first time in a decade that this transition has happened. Still, the data reflects a major problem – police in the United States are increasing their arrests for cannabis-related charges, despite the evolving attitude towards cannabis legalization.

Erik Altieri, the executive director for NORML, said, “Americans should be outraged that police departments across the country continue to waste tax dollars and limited law enforcement resources on arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens for simple marijuana possession.”

The release of these numbers is part of the Uniform Crime Report system for the FBI. However, the numbers only reflect the local police agencies that opted to send in their data, so the actual number of arrests could be much higher. Of the recorded arrests, approximately 92% were the result of possession.

The data also shows that more arrests over marijuana-related offenses were recorded than for aggravated assault, burglary, arson, fraud, disorderly conduct or sex offenses, among other crime categories. Altieri commented:

“Prohibition is a failed and racist policy that should be relegated to the dust bin of history. An overwhelming majority of Americans from all political persuasions want to see it brought to an end. Instead of continuing the disastrous practices of the past, it is time lawmakers at all levels begin to honor the will of their constituents and support a sensible marijuana policy focused on legalization and regulation.”

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