The total number of persons arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws declined for the first time in four years, but still outpace arrests for all violent crimes, according to data released today by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made 545,602 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2019. That total is nine percent higher than the total number of persons arrested for the commission of violent crimes (495,871). Of those arrested for cannabis-related activities, some 92 percent (500,395) were arrested for marijuana possession offenses only.
“Police across America make a marijuana-related arrest every 58 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 marijuana possession.”
Year-over-year, marijuana arrests decreased some 18 percent. Much of the national decline resulted from a drop off in marijuana arrests in Texas in 2019, which experienced over 50,000 fewer marijuana-related arrests last year as compared to 2018. Overall, marijuana arrests are down significantly from their peak a decade ago, when police made over 800,000 marijuana-related arrests annually. Since 2012, eleven states and Washington, DC have enacted laws legalizing the adult use of marijuana.
According to the FBI, marijuana-related arrests were least likely to occur in western states — most of which have legalized the substance — and were most prevalent in the northeast, where they constituted 53 percent of all drug arrests.
NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of marijuana by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use marijuana responsibly are no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for marijuana-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.
NORML Political Director