The 1995 Marijuana Rescheduling Petition

Uniform Crime Reports - Marijuana Arrest Statistics


Uniform Crime Reports - Marijuana Arrest Statistics

Many people believe that while illegal, no one gets arrested for marijuana any more unless they're selling it, or unlucky.

Table 9. Arrests for Marijuana Violations 1965 - 1993.

Year

All Drugs

Marijuana

Mj/Drug

Mj. Poss.

Mj. Sales

1965

60,500

18,815

0.31

   

1966

75,900

31,119

0.41

   

1967

121,500

61,843

0.51

   

1968

198,900

95,870

0.48

   

1969

288,600

118,903

0.41

   

1970

415,600

188,682

0.45

   

1971

492,000

225,828

0.46

   

1972

527,400

292,179

0.55

   

1973

628,900

420,700

0.67

   

1974

642,080

445,000

0.69

   

1975

601,300

416,100

0.69

   

1976

609,700

441,100

0.72

   

1977

642,700

457,600

0.71

   

1978

628,700

445,800

0.71

   

1979

558,600

391,600

0.70

   

1980

580,900

405,600

0.70

   

1981

559,900

400,300

0.71

344,339

55,990

1982

676,000

455,600

0.67

383,968

68,276

1983

661,400

406,900

0.62

334,007

69,447

1984

708,400

419,400

0.59

342,157

73,674

1985

811,400

451,138

0.56

365,941

85,197

1986

824,100

361,780

0.44

296,676

65,104

1987

937,400

378,709

0.40

313,709

65,618

1988

1,155,200

391,600

0.34

326,921

64,961

1989

1,361,700

398,977

0.29

314,552

84,425

1990

1,089,500

326,850

0.30

260,391

66,460

1991

1,010,000

287,850

0.29

226,240

61,610

1992

1,066,400

342,314

0.32

271,932

70,382

1993

1,126,300

380,689

0.34

310,859

69,830

 

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports

Table 9 provides a review of marijuana and other drug arrests from 1965 to 1993.

Historically, marijuana arrests have dropped as a percentage of all drug arrests, an indication of changing priorities for police departments. This is most evident in the 20% drop in marijuana arrests from 1985 to 1986, the year crack cocaine exploded onto the American scene. Total drug arrests grew little in 1986, as police simply redeployed their efforts to respond to crack. Then in 1987 drug arrests grew by over 100,000, marijuana arrests grew by a few thousand.

Cocaine-related arrests began to swamp the criminal justice system until the system reached maximum capacity in 1989. Since then marijuana arrests have remained relatively stable as a percentage of all arrests (about one third), which has also remained stable, at about 1.1 million arrests a year.

In 1993 an estimated 18.6 million people used marijuana and police arrested 380,689 of them. The arrest rate for marijuana offenses in 1993 was 2.04%. Marijuana users had a one in fifty chance of being arrested.

Actually, it is not that simple. Eleven states containing one third of the nation's population don't make arrests for possession of marijuana for personal use: Alaska, Oregon, California, Nebraska, Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, and Maine. These decriminalization laws were enacted during the 1970's and have resulted in considerable savings. Since 1980 there have been an average of 386,000 marijuana arrests a year.

In 1993 police made an estimated 14 million arrests in the United States. Using rounding of numbers to provide easy comparisons, the nature of distribution of arrests is as follows: Two million arrests were made for property crime, and three quarter million arrests were made for violent crime. Another 1.1 million arrests were made for other assaults. Half a million people were arrested for cocaine and heroin related crime, half a million more for other drugs. One and a half million people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, and the same number were arrested for drunkenness and disorderly conduct combined. There were a half million arrests for forgery and fraud, over 300,000 for vandalism and over 250,000 for weapons violations. Trafficking in stolen property resulted in 150,000 arrests. There were about 100,000 prostitution arrests, another 100,000 for sex offenses (not including rape). There were about half a million liquor law violations, 200,000 arrests of runaway kids, 100,000 curfew and loitering law violations, and 100,000 for offenses against families and children. All other offenses resulted in 3.5 million arrests.

Police did not solve 34% of murders, 44% of aggravated assaults, 47% of forcible rape cases, 85% of larceny-thefts, 76% of robberies, 86% of motor vehicle thefts, and 87% of burglaries in 1993.

One reason many of these crimes were not solved is lack of cooperation from the public. Sexual assaults are certainly a different matter and present different circumstances affecting reporting and crime investigation, and individual cases differ. But many crimes go unpunished because many citizens either fear retribution or look upon the police with suspicion rather than with trust. In 1972 the National Commission of Marihuana and Drug Abuse warned that continued arrests for marijuana possession would create disrespect for the law and the criminal justice system on the part of otherwise law-abiding citizens. What toll has continued marijuana arrests exacted from the credibility and stature of law enforcement officials over the last twenty years?

Once again, the significance of this indicator is in its persistence. Continued arrests have not and will not eliminate marijuana from our society, because its use is sufficiently widespread and well-established in the United States to acquire cultural significance.

 

 
 
 
  
 
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