Marijuana Laws Still Causing Misery As A Stunning Number Of Americans Still Subject To Arrest
The year 2016 will go down in the annals of drug law reform as a banner year. While already legal in 25 states for medical purposes, expanded marijuana legalization and decriminalization proposals are on the ballot in nearly a dozen states.
And kratom users who rely on the southeast Asian plant to treat everything from PTSD to anxiety to seizures are sounding a note of cautious optimism as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency seems to be backing down on its rush to make the plant a Schedule 1 drug.
But despite this seeming tidal wave of enlightenment over marijuana laws sweeping the nation in recent years and months, a stunning number of Americans are still being subjected to arrest and incarceration for pot offenses.
This news comes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, showing that the drug warriors have not exactly hung up their spurs in the face of popular and scientific dissent with the very basis and tenets of their quixotic battle. Drug possession and use are still major causes for arrest in the United States.
The data released by the Bureau reports arrests for violent crime and property crime as disclosed by local police departments, and it reveals that an alarming number of arrests for simple possession of drugs–primarily marijuana–are still epidemic across the country despite the changing laws and attitudes toward drug use.
The report cites some 1.5 million arrests in 2015 alone for “drug abuse,” a catch-all term that includes selling and trafficking as well as simple possession of drugs.
Indeed, drugs are the largest category of arrests overall. With some 10 million arrests recorded in total across the country in 2015, the drug abuse category made up 1,488,707 of them. Property crimes were a close second, with drunk driving coming in third at 1,089,171.
The FBI does explain that some of these arrestees might well be the same individuals who get caught up more than once by the long arm of the law: “…arrest figures do not reflect the number of individuals who have been arrested,” the report reads. “Rather, the arrest data show the number of times that persons are arrested.”
You might imagine that the drug warrior trope of “stopping traffickers” is at the heart of this massive number of arrests, but that is hardly the case. Even when you include petty, street level sales arrests along with those for trafficking, you still only get 16.1 percent of all drug arrests, about 240,000.
Possession arrests then make up 83.9 percent of the total, a whopping 1,249,025 of the total arrested for drug offenses, and marijuana offenses made up nearly 40 percent of all “drug abuse” arrests.
That is 1,500 people a day on average being arrested for possession of a plant that is completely legal in four states, and conditionally legal in 25.
It is high time the White House and Congress take a firmer hand over the prosecution of drug laws in this country. Blanket legalization of marijuana would be a welcome first step.