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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

872,721 marijuana arrests in 2007, up 5.2% from 2006

Record number of Americans arrested for marijuana

The FBI has released its annual report on Crime in the United States 2007. Once again, the number of people in the United States arrested for marijuana has gone up. 872,721 Americans were arrested for marijuana in 2007, and of those arrests, 89% or 775,138 were arrests for simple possession - not buying, selling, trafficking, or manufacture (growing).

This represents an increase in marijuana arrests of 5.2% from the previous year and the fifth straight year marijuana arrests have increased from the previous year. Now a marijuana smoker is arrested at the rate of 1 every 37 seconds and almost 100 marijuana arrests per hour.

Marijuana possession is increasingly the bulk of the “War on Drugs”

More arrests for marijuana are for simple possession than for any other drug. While only 11% of marijuana arrests involve buying, selling, trafficking, or manufacture, that rate for heroin and cocaine is 27% and that rate for synthetic drugs is 31%.

While arrests for marijuana sales/manufacturing increased by 7.6% over 2006, heroin and cocaine sales/manufacturing arrests dropped by 3.8% and synthetic drugs sales/manufacturing arrests dropped 2.6%.

While arrests for marijuana possession rose by 4.9%, heroin and cocaine possession arrests fell by 8.1% and synthetic drugs possession arrests fell by 5.4%.

Overall, while arrests for marijuana increased by 5.2%, arrests for all other drugs combined dropped from 1,060,183 to 968,461, a decline of 8.7%. Last year, marijuana arrests made up 43.9% of all drug arrests. This year, marijuana accounts for 47.4% of all drug arrests. Almost half of the war on drugs is waged on marijuana.

The West is the Best

The FBI breaks their data down into four regions: Northeast, Midwest, South, And West. Arrests for marijuana make up more than half of all drug arrests in two out of four regions and almost half in a third. The Midwest leads the charge with 60.8% of its drug arrests for marijuana, followed by the South with 52.5% of its arrests and the Northeast with 49.9% of its arrests. In the West, marijuana arrests only make up a little more than one-third of the drug arrest total at 34.3%.

This is the first time most of the country is dedicating most of its drug arrests toward marijuana. In the previous year, only the Midwest, at 57%, surpassed 50%, with the South coming in at 49.8%, the Northeast at 47.9%, and the West at 30%.

Accounting for population of these regions, marijuana users in the South are most at risk, where there are 318 marijuana possession arrests for every 100,000 Southerners. Midwesterners face a 292-to-100,000 ratio, in the Northeast it is 225-to-100,000, and only 201 per 100,000 Westerners are arrested for marijuana possession.

Over past five years, more arrests for marijuana than all violent crime combined

Perhaps most disturbing is comparing marijuana arrests to violent crime. This year, while 775,138 Americans were arrested for mere marijuana possession, only 597,447 people were arrested for all violent crimes combined, which includes murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

While the percentage of marijuana possession arrests rose by 5.2%, arrests for violent crime dropped by 2.3% from the previous year. Now, to be fair, the reported incidents of violent crime did show a slight decrease of 0.7%, from 1,417,745 in 2006 to 1,408,337 in 2007, but that’s only a decrease of 9,408 offenses, compared to a decrease of 14,076 arrests for those offenses.

Over the past five years, there have been more arrests every year for marijuana possession than for all violent crime combined. Over those five years, murders have increased 2.3% and robberies have increased 7.5%. Overall, there were 24,661 more violent crimes in 2007 than in 2003, yet there were only 421 more arrests for violent crime in 2007 compared to 2003. This year there were only 424 arrests for every 1000 violent crimes, which is 7-to-10 fewer arrests per 1000 than each of the previous four years.

Ten Year Trend

Over the past ten years, arrests for just about every crime have declined. Arrests for all violent crimes have dropped by 8.9% and property crime arrests declined 12.5%. Many other miscellaneous crime arrests have seen double-digit percentage declines, like fraud (-30.8%), prostitution (-22%), and offenses against family and children (-16.9%). Meanwhile, in that ten years, the only crimes for which arrests have gone up are robbery (+5.9%), drug law violations (+17.6%), and embezzlement (+26.5%).