In 2019, police made 565,602 cannabis-related arrests in the U.S. – an 18 percent decrease from the previous year, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data. Of those arrests 500,395, about 92 percent, were for possession.
According to the data, the majority of possession arrests were made in the Northeast, followed by the Midwest, South, and West. The arrest rates for cannabis manufacturing followed the same pattern.
In the Northeast, 52.7 percent of all arrests were related to cannabis possession or manufacturing, that figure dropped to 44 percent in the Midwest, 42.7 in the South, and just 12.7 in the West where cannabis has been largely legalized.
The number of arrests related to cannabis last year exceeded arrests related to violent crime. The FBI data indicates there were 495,871 violent crime arrests in the U.S. last year – a 0.9 percent decrease from 2018.
In a statement, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri noted that police in the U.S. “make a marijuana-related arrest every 58 seconds.”
“At a time when the overwhelming majority of Americans want cannabis to be legal and regulated, it is an outrage that many police departments across the country continue to waste tax dollars and limited law enforcement resources on arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens for simple marijuana possession.” – Altieri in a statement
The dataset breaking down arrests by race only includes “drug abuse violations” and does not specify whether the individual was arrested for cannabis or other drugs. According to the report, 748,874 of those arrested for drug abuse violations were white, 274,670 were Black, 14,098 were American Indian or Alaska Native, 11,857 were Asian, and 2,602 were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
In 2010, police made more than 800,000 cannabis-related arrests. Since then, 11 states and Washington, D.C. have approved cannabis legalization laws, while 12 other states have approved decriminalization measures related to cannabis.
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