Over 5 percent of all arrests last year were for marijuana-related charges.
In 2016, more people were arrested for marijuana possession than for assault, murder, rape, robbery, and any other crime the FBI classifies as violent. Overall, arrests for marijuana in 2016 were higher than in the previous year.
“Criminalizing drug use has devastated families across the US, particularly in communities of color, and for no good reason,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in a statement. “Far from helping people who are struggling with addiction, the threat of arrest often keeps them from accessing health services and increases the risk of overdose or other harms.”
Marijuana still remains as one of the largest categories for arrests in the United States. This is happening despite 29 states legalizing marijuana for medical use and 8 states approving recreational use.
The marijuana arrest statistics are estimates from the Drug Policy Alliance. The FBI did not release arrest information for individual drugs, only the arrests for drug-related crimes overall. However, the Drug Policy Alliance used estimates based on trends from 2015, the last year the FBI released information on marijuana-specific arrests. That year, 43% of all drug arrests (643,121) were for marijuana law violations, and 39% of all drug arrests (574,641) were simply for marijuana possession. With 1.57 million arrests for drug violations in 2016, this would likely mean that someone was arrested every minute in the United States for marijuana possession.
Polls show that support for legalizing marijuana is rising steadily. Many from both sides of the political spectrum would like to see law enforcement stop target non-violent offenses, especially as non-whites are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana. Overall, the War on Drugs has cost taxpayers over 1 trillion dollars.