Once again, police arrested almost 750 thousand marijuana consumers, sellers, and growers, despite the passage of legalization in two states, decriminalization in fifteen states, and medical marijuana in twenty states.
The data, analyzed by 420RADIO News, indicate that 749,825 people were arrested for marijuana within the category of “drug abuse violations” reported to the FBI. Of those, 658,231 were arrested for possession, making up about seven out of eight pot arrests in this country.
These numbers are virtually the same from 2011, when 757,969 reported marijuana arrests took place. Previously during the Obama Administration, there were 853,838 arrests in 2010 and 858,408 arrests in 2009. Analysis shows that the great decline from 2010 to 2011 could be attributed largely to the decriminalization of marijuana possession in California under then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was pressured into it by the political force of positive polls for the Prop 19 legalization campaign. Without those California declines, the arrest totals have remained steady during this administration. It will be interesting to note the numbers one year from now when decriminalization passed in Massachusetts and legalization passed in Washington and Colorado in 2012 will factor into the arrest totals for 2013.
Members of the world’s top organization of former cops and prosecutors who support drug legalization, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), spoke out about how the focus on the Drug War arrests have undermined public safety.
“These numbers represent a tremendous loss of human potential. Each one of those arrests is the story of someone who may suffer a variety of adverse effects from their interaction with the justice system,” said LEAP executive director Neill Franklin, a cop for 34 years. “Commit a murder or a robbery and the government will still give you a student loan. Get convicted for smoking a joint and you’re likely to lose it. This is supposed to help people get over their drug habit?”
“Every time a police officer makes an arrest for drugs, that’s several hours out of his or her day not spent going after real criminals. As the country has been investing more and more of its resources into prosecuting drug ‘crime,’ the rate of unsolved violent crime has been steadily increasing. Where are our priorities here?” asked retired lieutenant commander Diane Goldstein, another LEAP speaker.
The data show Goldstein’s concern is real. There were more arrests for drug possession (1,276,099) than the FBI’s tally for “other assaults” (1,199,476). There were more arrests for marijuana possession (658,231) than for the violent crimes of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault (521,196).
While violent crime is down overall, putting police resources toward so-called “drug abuse violations” can’t help but divert them from solving the violent crimes that do take place. According to the data for clearance (the rate of arrests versus how many offenses are reported), less than half of all violent crimes and less than one-fifth of all property crimes led to an arrest.
- Violent Crime – 46.8 percent; Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter – 62.5 percent; Forcible Rape – 40.1 percent; Robbery – 28.1 percent; Aggravated Assault – 55.8 percent;
- Property Crime – 19 percent; Burglary – 12.7 percent; Larceny-Theft – 22 percent; Motor Vehicle Theft – 11.9 percent; Arson – 20.4 percent;