Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know

By Jonathan P. Caulkins; Angela Hawken et al. | Go to book overview

4
HOW STRINGENT IS
MARIJUANA ENFORCEMENT
IN THE UNITED STATES?

Who gets arrested for marijuana possession?

All sorts of people, and in large numbers.

In 2010 there were more than 1.6 million state and local arrests for drug violations, constituting about an eighth of all arrests. More than half of those drug arrests were for marijuana offenses: 46 percent for possession plus 6 percent for marijuana sale/manufacturing. That’s more than 750,000 arrests for marijuana possession. (Because some people are arrested more than once a year, the actual number of people arrested must be somewhat smaller.)

By comparison, there were 2.6 million arrests for public drunkenness, sales to a minor, driving under the influence, and other violations of liquor laws.

Figure 4.1 shows the number of marijuana-possession arrests over the last three decades; they have more than doubled over that period.

An “arrest” can mean many things, from handcuffs, a trip downtown, booking, and a jail cell to just getting a ticket or summons to appear before a judge. “Custodial” arrests—the ones with handcuffs—aren’t usually counted separately.

Although the number of people arrested for marijuana possession appears strikingly high, nearly thirty million Americans use marijuana each year; only about 2.5 percent of users

-42-

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