Since 1991 Marijuana Possession Arrests Have Skyrocketed


One of my biggest pet peeves is when marijuana opponents act like marijuana prohibition doesn't ruin lives because a small percentage of people are serving jail sentences for marijuana. As valued contributor to The Weed Blog Russ Belville always points out, even though it's a small percentage, it's still a percentage. Not even one person should ever be locked in a cage because of marijuana, period. If even one person is taking up a jail bed that should be reserved for a violent criminal, activists will do whatever they can to achieve reform.

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Just as no one should be jailed for marijuana, no one should be arrested either. The resources it takes to enforce marijuana prohibition, even decriminalization, is wasted and should be used for something else. Marijuana possession, even in states that have decriminalized marijuana possession, can lead to lifelong issues. If you get arrested for marijuana possession, it goes on your record, you likely lose your license, which leads to losing employment, which leads to losing your house, and a host of other issues. So when Kevin Sabet acts like decriminalization is enough, which is a policy that he doesn't even really support, it makes me cringe.

Marijuana possession arrests as a share of overall arrests has tripled since 1991, despite the fact that overall support for marijuana legalization has grown significantly in that same span of time. Per the Washington Post:

This shift in focus is evident at the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, which for decades has been the command center of the federal war on drugs. The ONDCP now emphasizes "balance" as a key component of federal drug strategy. "Drug addiction is not a moral failing but rather a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated," the agency states on its website. "Drug policy is a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue."

That said, it doesn't seem that the nation's law enforcement agencies have embraced the new approach. While the number of arrests for all offenses has declined nationally since 1991, the share of arrests related to simple marijuana possession has more than tripled over the same time period.

Marijuana prohibition has failed. Marijuana prohibition is a racist policy, and a waste of resources. Marijuana prohibition is a black eye on American history and it's time every state took a new approach.