Marijuana Arrests Drop For First Time Since 2002

Drug War protester at Huntington Beach, Calif. (Photo by The November Coalition)Drug War protester at Huntington Beach, Calif. (Photo by The November Coalition)Marijuana arrests in the United States declined in 2008 — the first such drop since 2002 — according to figures released by the FBI today.

According to the just-released Uniform Crime Reports, U.S. law enforcement made 847,863 arrests on marijuana charges, 89 percent of which were for simple possession, not sale or manufacture. More Americans were arrested for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined. During 2008, one American was arrested for marijuana every 37 seconds.

Marijuana arrests reached an all-time high at more than 872,000 in 2007. More than 12 million American citizens have been arrested on marijuana charges since 1965.

The new report comes on the heels of the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released Sept. 10, which showed increases in both the number and the percentage of Americans who admit having used marijuana.

In 2003, when marijuana arrests reached what was then a record total of 755,186, pot use was admitted by 40.6 percent of Americans 12 and older. Five years later, in 2008, that figure was 41 percent, meaning more than 102 million Americans are willing to tell government survey-takers that they had smoked pot.

Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) executive director Rob Kampia was happy with the reduced number of pot arrests. “This slight dip in the number of marijuana arrests provides a small amount of relief to the tens of millions of American marijuana consumers who have been under attack by the own government for decades, Kampia said. “It’s time to stop wasting billions of tax dollars criminalizing responsible Americans for using a substance that’s safer than alcohol, and put an end to policies that simply hand this massive consumer market to unregulated criminals.”

Still, drug policy experts bemoaned the disconnect between popular acceptance of pot and legal sanctions against it. “There’s a kind of schizophrenia going on with marijuana policy,” Tony Newman, a spokesman for the Drug Policy Alliance (which pushes for legalization) told am New York. “There’s all these people questioning our policies on the one hand and there’s still record numbers of marijuana arrests.”

– Article from SF Weekly.