Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, September 25, 2017

Grinding out marijuana arrests withing rising drug arrests in latest FBI crime data

As reported in this post over at my sentencing blog, the 2016 edition of the FBI’s annual report Crime in the United States was released earlier today.  This FBI report also includes arrest data, and Tom Angell has been quick to review and report on what the new data say about marijuana arrests and drug arrests more generally.  Here are headlines/links and data from Tom's two early reports via Forbes:

"Drug Arrests On The Rise In US: New FBI Data"

The numbers, released on Monday, show that there were 1,572,579 drug arrests in the U.S. in 2016.  That's an average of one drug arrest every 20 seconds.  The total number is up roughly 5.6% from the 1,488,707 arrests for drug crimes in the country in 2015.  The increasing drug bust rate stands in contrast to the public-health-focused rhetoric from Obama administration drug officials who consistently tried to move away from "war on drugs" terminology.

"Trump Administration Makes It Harder To Track Marijuana Arrests (But I Did It Anyway)"

New FBI data reveals that drug arrests increased in the United States last year. But due to a change in how the annual law enforcement numbers are publicized, it is now harder to determine how many people were busted for marijuana or other drugs specifically....

The annual publication, based on data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report (UCR), has in years past contained a convenient table that shows the percentage of drug arrests accounted for by marijuana possession or heroin or cocaine sales and manufacturing..... But the new data, released on Monday, contains no such helpful breakdown.

The removal of the table is part of an overall paring back of information made publicly available with the report. "The UCR Program streamlined the 2016 edition by reducing the number of tables from 81 to 29," Stephen G. Fischer Jr., the chief of multimedia productions for the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, said in an email.

Helpfully, however, Fischer did share FBI's internal drug-by-drug breakdown numbers, and here's what they reveal: Marijuana possession busts comprised 37.36% of all reported drug arrests in the U.S. in 2016, and cannabis sales and manufacturing arrests accounted for another 4.18% of the total.

Added together, marijuana arrests made up 41.54% of the 1,572,579 drug busts in the country last year.  That means, based on an extrapolation, that police arrested people for cannabis 653,249 times in the U.S. in 2016. That averages out to about one marijuana arrest every 48 seconds.

According to the same calculation, there were 643,121 U.S. cannabis arrests in 2015.  So arrests for marijuana are on the rise, even as more states legalize it.

Criminal justice developments and reforms | Permalink


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