NORML - Police arrested an estimated 786,545 persons for marijuana
violations in 2005, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's
annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. The total is the highest
ever recorded by the FBI, and comprised 42.6 percent of all drug arrests
in the United States.
"These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor
marijuana offenders," said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre,
who noted that at current rates, a marijuana smoker is arrested every 40
seconds in America.
Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 88 percent
some 696,074 Americans were charged with possession only. The remaining
90,471 individuals were charged with "sale/manufacture," a category that
includes all cultivation offenses even those where the marijuana was
being grown for personal or medical use. In past years, roughly 30
percent of those arrested were age 19 or younger.
"Present policies have done little if anything to decrease marijuana's
availability or dissuade youth from trying it," St. Pierre said, noting
young people in the U.S. now frequently report that they have easier
access to pot than alcohol or tobacco.
The total number of marijuana arrests in the U.S. for 2005 far exceeded
the total number of arrests in the U.S. for all violent crimes combined,
including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated
Annual marijuana arrests have more than doubled since the early 1990s.
"Arresting hundreds of thousands of Americans who smoke marijuana
responsibly needlessly destroys the lives of otherwise law abiding
citizens," St. Pierre said, adding that over 8 million Americans have
been arrested on marijuana charges in the past decade. During this same
time, arrests for cocaine and heroin have declined sharply, implying
that increased enforcement of marijuana laws is being achieved at the
expense of enforcing laws against the possession and trafficking of more
St. Pierre concluded: "Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers
between $10 billion and $12 billion annually and has led to the arrest
of nearly 18 million Americans. Nevertheless, some 94 million Americans
acknowledge having used marijuana during their lives. It makes no sense
to continue to treat nearly half of all Americans as criminals for their
use of a substance that poses no greater - and arguably far fewer -
health risks than alcohol or tobacco. A better and more sensible
solution would be to tax and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to
alcohol and tobacco."