While some states in the United States have embraced marijuana legalization, people in other parts of the country are still being arrested for possession of the drug. According to statistics from 2014, at least 620,000 people were placed under arrest for possession of marijuana.
That’s nearly 1,700 people on a daily basis. Based on these figures, someone in the United States gets arrested for marijuana possession every minute.
And these numbers are actually larger than they appear, since some states do not report the number of arrests in their state to the statisticians at the FBI.
More than 5% of all arrests in the United States are for basic possession of marijuana. This is a major increase from 20 years ago, when this represented less than 2% of arrests. This increase comes as states have adopted less restrictive marijuana laws over the years.
Marijuana-related arrests have even increased after Colorado and Washington state legalized cannabis. This shows that many jurisdictions in the country are increasing their efforts to enforce marijuana laws.
Meanwhile, a majority of the public says that they would vote for legalized marijuana.
Pro-marijuana spokesperson Tom Angell says, “It's unacceptable that police still put this many people in handcuffs for something that a growing majority of Americans think should be legal. There’s just no good reason that so much police time and taxpayer money is spent punishing people for marijuana when so many murders, rapes and robberies go unsolved.”
As the law enforcement officials of the United States crack down on marijuana possession, more than half of the country’s violent crimes were unsolved in 2014.
Additionally, enforcing marijuana laws is costly for both states and arrested individuals. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a typical marijuana arrest costs roughly $750, and that does not include adjudication or detainment. With 620,000 arrests last year, the country spent almost $500 million in order to arrest people for marijuana possession in 2014.
Meanwhile, the consequences of an arrest are devastating to the individual. An arrested person might have to miss work, which slows down productivity. It could also lead to a person being fired and unable to find a new job because of their arrest record. Furthermore, if a person is unable to post bail, they might spend weeks in jail while they wait for a trial.
As for the 2016 elections, California, Arizona, and Nevada are planning to put marijuana legalization on the ballot. But while many states are making the inevitable transition to legalization, it will take changes at the federal level to fix the consequences that come with illicit marijuana.