The FBI has released its annual statistics report, which shows 700,993 people were arrested in 2014 for marijuana-related charges, making that one arrest every 45 seconds. Now that seems excessive.
In fact, cannabis-related charges comprised 44.9% of all drug arrests made last year, a whopping 1,561,231 — the largest category of offenses people were charged with, beating out property crime, theft, and even assault. Furthermore, 88.4% of marijuana charges were for possession alone — not smuggling, selling, or even growing, just people trying to either medicate or enjoy a non-violent, harmless way of winding down. This means that 39.7% of all drug arrests and 5.5% of all arrests in 2014 were for something as simple as marijuana possession.
“These numbers refute the myth that nobody actually gets arrested for using marijuana,” Marijuana Policy Project director Mason Tvert said in a press release.
Somewhat surprisingly given the liberalizing national attitude towards marijuana and legalization, cannabis arrests in 2014 were up slightly from 2013.
“It’s hard to imagine why more people were arrested for marijuana possession when fewer people than ever believe it should be a crime,” Tvert said.
In fact, 2014 actually saw a reversal in the seven-year trend of possession arrests declining. Marijuana Majority chairman Tom Angell says the numbers aren’t matching up with public opinion because law enforcement is yet to accept the changing national attitude towards marijuana.
“It’s unacceptable that police still put this many people in handcuffs for something that a growing majority of Americans think should be legal,” Angell said. “A record number of states are expected to vote on legalizing marijuana next year, so we hope and expect to see these numbers significantly dropping soon.”
The FBI report also showed that more than one-third of murders and more than 60% of rapes went unsolved in 2014, bringing the clearance rate for violent crimes to a continued historical low.
“There’s just no good reason that so much police time and taxpayer money is spent punishing people for marijuana when so many murders, rapes, and robberies go unsolved,” Angell said.
Tvert laid out the figures.
“While law enforcement was busy making nearly three-quarters-of-a-million marijuana arrests, more than 35% of murders went unsolved, the clearance rate for rape was less than 40%, and for robbery and property crimes was below 30%,” he said.
Not only is pursuing these marijuana-related offenses a waste of law enforcement’s clearly precious time, it’s also a huge waste of money. According to a report by the ACLU, authorities spend more than $3.6 billion every year enforcing laws against marijuana possession — money collected from everyday citizens, the majority of which think marijuana should be legal according to recent polling, that could be much better spent elsewhere. And that’s not even touching on the financial destruction of those prosecuted for these minor, non-violent, marijuana crimes who carry this arrest on their records for years, impairing their prospects in the job market and infinitely narrowing their chances for a brighter future.
“As long as we have these silly laws on the books, law enforcement resources will be wasted on enforcing them,” Tvert said. “It’s time for state officials to step up and end the outdated policy of marijuana prohibition.”