As United States law enforcement cracks down on recreational marijuana infractions, the people are left scratching their heads. Recent reports from the FBI are challenging to interpret but reporters found that the rate of recreational marijuana arrests are suddenly on the rise relative to recent years. Why is the FBI less transparent about these statistics than they once were?
With growing approval across the country for legalized marijuana and more than half the country legalizing medical marijuana, it is rather odd that police would be arresting more people for recreational marijuana infractions. Especially in recreational weed states where marijuana is legal, does growing approval signal to authorities they need to be more aggressive about cracking down on marijuana? Are police just making a push to clean up the illegal market to expedite the transition?
Though marijuana is now legal in 29 states for either medical or recreational use, the number of arrests involving marijuana have actually increased across the country.
Those numbers come from the Uniformed Crime Report compiled by the FBI from data sent to the agency from law enforcement operations around the country. The information covers arrests for all of 2016.
The number of people arrested on marijuana-related charges jumped 12 percent from 2015 to 2016, with 75,000 more people arrested. Overall, the number of drug-related arrests reached 1.57 million, about 5.6 percent higher than in 2015.
It would seem endless movies and television shows about the futility of the War on Drugs -- not to mention surveys showing Americans are ready to end it -- have had little effect on law enforcement itself.
The FBI typically releases arrest numbers in the annual report broken down by the drug involved. However, they did not do so for 2016. Reporters had to return to the FBI and ask for the specific numbers on marijuana.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, the numbers were as follows:
-There were 653,249 arrests involving cannabis
-That’s about one arrest involving marijuana every 48 seconds
-Marijuana arrests made up more than 41 percent of all drug busts in the U.S. in 2016
-No matter how you look at it, those are very strange numbers in a country where marijuana is legal in so many places.
Morgan Fox, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a prepared statement that the arrest numbers show marijuana users “continue to be treated like criminals across the country.”
He added, “This is a shameful waste of resources and can create lifelong consequences for the people arrested.”
It’s already been reported that marijuana-related arrests in Washington D.C. tripled between 2015 and 2016. They are on pace so far in 2017 to have a similarly high number of arrests. Arrests numbers are also up in many states in the Deep South.
The cost to taxpayers for arresting and processing that many people through the legal system is in the billions, according to Newsweek.
All of this seemingly runs contradictory to public sentiment, not only on the War on Drugs but on marijuana. Support for marijuana legalization reached a new high in a survey released earlier this year by CBS News.
About 61 percent of those surveyed in the poll think marijuana should be legal, while 71 percent opposed federal intervention in states that have made marijuana legal.