A police officer handcuffing a citizen.

Keith Allison

FBI Report: Cannabis Arrests at Lowest Point in a Decade

Arrests for simple cannabis possession have fallen to their lowest point since 1996, according to new statistics released by the FBI. In 2015, 574,641 people were arrested for simple possession, representing a 25 percent drop from the near 800,000 peak in 2007. However, those numbers do not represent great news, as the figures add up to more than one arrest for simple cannabis possession every minute, according to a Washington Post report.

The FBI data, though, suggests that law enforcement officers are committing less time to cannabis enforcement compared to other drugs. In 2010, cannabis possession and sales accounted for 52 percent of all US drug arrests, compared to 43 percent in 2015. The data purports that police have been making more arrests for possession of heroin, cocaine, and other non-narcotic drugs.

According to a 2013 ACLU report, cannabis enforcement has cost taxpayers $3.6 billion; and while black and whites were found to use marijuana at similar rates, black users were four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession as their white counterparts. The ACLU estimates that a typical marijuana arrest costs about $750, excluding any adjudication or detainment costs.  

“It’s unacceptable that police still put this many people in handcuffs for something that a growing majority of Americans think should be legal,” Tom Angell, communications representative for the Marijuana Majority, said in the Post report. “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.”

Still, the federal government has not acted to decriminalize or reschedule cannabis despite the record number of states who will vote on cannabis measures in November.

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