In its report "A Tale of two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform," the ACLU points out that marijuana arrests continue to clog the criminal justice system even though there is broad support for legalization. And, 9 out of 10 marijuana arrests continue to be for simple possession.
According to data collected by the FBI, law enforcement officers in the U.S. arrested approximately 663,000 people for marijuana-related offenses in 2018, the latest year for which data is available. It's still the most commonly charged drug in the U.S., despite the fact that 33 states have at least partially legalized it.
Even as marijuana use gains popularity and acceptance across the country, law enforcement agencies continue to pour resources into pursuing marijuana-related crimes. This includes states like Iowa where marijuana remains illegal on the state level.
Even though more and more states have legalized marijuana, the overall number of arrests for marijuana offenses continued to rise in 2018, according to new data from the FBI. There were 663,367 marijuana arrests nationwide last year, up from 659,700 in 2017. That itself was a jump from 2016's total of 653,249. Before that, marijuana arrests had been dropping steadily for more than a decade.
Diversion programs offer a way for people with minimal criminal histories to avoid becoming trapped in the criminal justice system.
It's an interesting time in America. The majority of states (although not Iowa) have legalized marijuana for medical use. Most states, including Iowa, have legalized low-THC CBD, a cannabis derivative, for medical purposes. And, last year, the federal government legalized hemp, a relative of marijuana that contains almost no THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. However, states that have anti-hemp laws have generally not lifted them.
Although marijuana remains illegal in Iowa and federally, many people still use it. Moreover, a lot of people are under the misimpression that driving under the influence of marijuana isn't dangerous or illegal. Unfortunately, that's not true.
With so many states legalizing marijuana, you might think that the urgency to enforce marijuana laws is waning. After all, states wouldn't be legalizing if they were still convinced that marijuana's effects were as dangerous as those of other drugs.
Marijuana arrests make up over half of all drug arrests in the U.S., and approximately 88 percent of marijuana arrests are for possession. Enforcing our state and federal marijuana laws costs the U.S. about $3.6 billion every year, yet doing so has had virtually no measurable impact on the availability of marijuana. It also ensnares hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system.
Someone was arrested for a marijuana offense every 48 seconds in 2017, according to new data from the FBI. Arrests for marijuana offenses rose across the U.S. last year even as more states legalized the drug. Moreover, the increase was driven by arrests for mere possession.