FBI: Cannabis Arrests Rise for Third Straight Year, Outpace Arrests for All Violent Crimes

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The total number of persons arrested in the United States for violating cannabis laws rose for the third consecutive year, according to data released by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made 663,367 arrests for cannabis-related violations in 2018. That total is more than 21 percent higher than the total number of persons arrested for the commission of violent crimes (521,103). Of those arrested for cannabis crimes, some 90 percent (608,776) were arrested for cannabis possession offenses only.

“Police across America make a [cannabis]-related arrest every 48 seconds,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “At a time when the overwhelming majority of Americans want cannabis to be legal and regulated, it is an outrage that many police departments across the country continue to waste tax dollars and limited law enforcement resources on arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens for simple [cannabis] possession.”

The year-over-year increase in marijuana arrests comes at the same time that several states, including California, have legalized the adult use of cannabis — leading to a significant decline in [cannabis]-related arrests in those jurisdictions. It also marks the reversal of a trend of declining arrests that began following the year 2007, when police made a record 872,721 total [cannabis]-related arrests in the United States.

Cannabis-related arrests were least likely to occur in western states — most of which have legalized the substance — but were especially prevalent in the northeast, where they constituted 53 percent of all drug arrests.

Tables for the FBI’s 2018 Uniform Crime Report are available online here.


NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of cannabis by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high-quality cannabis that is safe, convenient, and affordable.

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For Immediate Release


Justin Strekal

NORML Political Director

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