America has witnessed an unprecedented wave of cannabis reform over the past decade, with 33 states legalizing medical marijuana — and 11 of those states crafting full adult-use regulations. As attitudes towards cannabis relaxed, the total number of arrests for weed-related crimes also began to slowly decline.
Until 2016, that is. Three years ago, the total number of weed-related arrests climbed to 653,249, according to data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. In 2017, the number of marijuana arrests climbed to 659,700. And last year, that number rose even higher, to 663,367. In other words, an American was arrested for weed every 48 seconds last year.
What's worse, the FBI crime data likely under-represents the total number of weed arrests. The Uniform Crime Report only includes data from local police departments who choose to provide their arrest data to the federal government, which means that the actual number of arrests is higher than what the FBI reports.
The report notes that cops arrested 1,654,282 Americans for drug-related offenses last year, representing a total of 16 percent of all arrests made in the country. Marijuana arrests accounted for 40 percent of all drug arrests last year — and a shocking 92 percent of these arrests were solely for weed possession, not for growing or selling pot.
In total, cops arrested more people for carrying a bag of weed than they did for aggravated assault, arson, fraud, sex offenses, burglary, or disorderly conduct. Across the country, police were only able solve 33 percent of rapes, 30 percent of robberies, and 14 percent of burglaries by making an arrest last year. From these statistics, it is clear that US law enforcement expends more effort on enforcing minor weed crimes than they do on busting serious, violent criminals.
Gallery – Photos of Cops Smoking Weed:
“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,” said Erik Altieri of NORML to Forbes.
The FBI data falls in line with recent data from the DEA, which also reported an increase in federal cannabis arrests last year. Many of these arrests occurred in prohibition states, although the DEA has also been helping adult-use states eradicate black market weed growers and smugglers.
The FBI data does not account for racial bias commonly inherent in cannabis law enforcement. Recent studies have found that the number of minorities arrested for cannabis crimes has been growing in recent years, even in adult-use states like Washington and cities that have supposedly decriminalized pot, like New York City.
“Prohibition is a failed and racist policy that should be relegated to the dust bin of history,” Altieri told Forbes. “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.”