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Why Are So Many People Still Being Arrested For Marijuana?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently released their annual data on reported crimes in the United States through their Crime Data Explorer Website. Among the various statistics, one issue that stands out is the number of people arrested for marijuana-related offenses.

Despite efforts towards legalization and decriminalization, law enforcement continues to prioritize arresting individuals for possession and sale of marijuana. This statistic serves as a stark reminder that there is still work to be done in reforming marijuana laws nationwide.

As we examine the data further, it becomes clear that until individuals are no longer being arrested and incarcerated for marijuana offenses, true progress has not been made.

FBI Crime Data Explorer Website

The FBI Crime Data Explorer Website is a database that collects and compiles data from various law enforcement agencies across the country. The data includes information on reported crimes, arrests made, and other factors such as location and demographics. As of 2022, 75 percent of the total US population was covered in this data, an increase from previous years.

However, it is important to note that not all agencies report their data, making the statistics incomplete. This highlights the need for continued efforts toward accurate and comprehensive data collection in order to effectively evaluate policies and make informed decisions.

National Marijuana Arrest Statistics of 2022

According to the FBI data on the Crime Data Explorer website, which are derived from the Summary Reporting System (SRS) and National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), reports are voluntarily submitted to the FBI.

There were over 750,000 arrests for drug-related offenses in 2022, with marijuana accounting for nearly 30 percent of those arrests. That means nearly a quarter of a million people were arrested for marijuana offenses alone in 2022.

Of these arrests, most were for possession (90 percent), while the remaining were for sales. While this number has decreased slightly in recent years, it is still a significant amount and highlights the ongoing issue of criminalizing marijuana use.

Reasons for changes in numbers could include varying state laws and enforcement priorities. However, the fact remains that marijuana arrests continue to occur at an alarming rate.

Arrests For Drug Possession Offenses

Drug Possession – Subtotal673,011
Other – Dangerous Nonnarcotic Drugs303,997
Marijuana208,192
Opium or Cocaine or Their Derivatives130,353
Synthetic Narcotics30,469
per FBI Crime Data Explorer

Arrests For Drug Sales Offenses

Drug Sale/Manufacturing – Subtotal93,584
Other – Dangerous Nonnarcotic Drugs36,130
Opium or Cocaine or Their Derivatives33,578
Marijuana18,916
Synthetic Narcotics4,960
per FBI Crime Data Explorer

Progress in Marijuana Legalization

As of now, the recreational use of marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, with medical cannabis programs in some shape or form in place in 44 states (states that only allow CBD Oil, were taken into account in this number).

While this is a significant step towards ending the criminalization of marijuana, it has not eliminated arrests entirely. In fact, as more states have legalized or decriminalized cannabis, the number of annual arrests has slightly decreased.

The peak of cannabis-related arrests in the United States was in 2007, when 872,721 arrests were recorded per NORML.

However, with all of these reforms and increasing societal acceptance and normalization of cannabis use, these numbers should be significantly lower. This further highlights the need for continued efforts towards reforming cannabis laws to truly make progress in ending arrests and incarceration for marijuana offenses.

“While there has clearly been a longterm decline in the total number of marijuana-related arrests nationwide, it is discouraging that there still remains significant gaps in the available information,” said NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “At a time when voters and their elected officials nationwide are re-evaluating state and federal marijuana policies, it is inconceivable that government agencies are unable to produce more explicit data on the estimated costs and scope of marijuana prohibition in America.” 

He added, “Nonetheless, even from this incomplete data set, it remains clear that marijuana seizures and prosecutions remain a primary driver of drug war enforcement in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to be arrested annually for these violations even though a majority of voters no longer believe that the responsible use of marijuana by adults should be a crime.”

The statistics released by the FBI through their Crime Data Explorer Website regarding cannabis arrests are a stark reminder that there is still much progress to be made in the fight for legalization and decriminalization of cannabis.

While it is encouraging to see a decrease in arrests over recent years, the fact remains that nearly a quarter of a million people were arrested for cannabis offenses in 2022 alone. With the increasing acceptance and normalization of cannabis use, as well as the numerous reforms implemented in various states, these numbers should be drastically lower.

The continued criminalization of marijuana not only perpetuates injustices but also prevents individuals from accessing a natural medicine that has been used for thousands of years. It is time for comprehensive reform to truly make progress in ending marijuana arrests and creating a more just and equitable society.

So, let’s continue to push for change and raise awareness about the impact of these outdated laws on individuals and communities across the nation. Together, we can create a better future where people are not punished for using a plant with proven medicinal properties.


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