750,000 People Arrested for Marijuana Possession

750,000 People Arrested for Marijuana Possession September 27, 2011

The latest figures are out and they’re appalling:

If these statements are true, then how do they justify the arrests of more than 853,000 people for marijuana-related violations in 2010? That’s one person arrested every 19 seconds! The Drug Czar maintains that law enforcement protocols are still considered a useful tool for eliminating suppliers and dealers as a way to decrease overall use.

Okay, that seems like it makes sense. So how many of those 853,000 arrests were for sale or manufacture of marijuana? The answer is just over 103,000. That means that more than 750,000 people were arrested last year for simple possession! A remarkably small number of people who may have distributed marijuana were arrested last year, along with three quarters of a million simple users, in an effort to curb marijuana use nationwide.

And what did all those arrests give us? A small increase in marijuana use. Marijuana is as available as it has ever been. I could have a bag of pot here in a matter of hours and I don’t even run in those circles (and haven’t smoked pot in over a decade).

What else has it gotten us? Well, it’s given 750,000 people criminal records and made it much tougher for them to find good jobs. It’s made them ineligible for Pell grants and many college scholarships in most states. It’s broken up families and consigned others to poverty for the reasons stated above. It’s cost billions of dollars, particularly at the state and local levels, where more than half of all law enforcement spending is on drug enforcement. And it’s done no good at all.

Other than that, it’s a great policy. There were more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined. Is that really a good use of resources?

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  • What else has it gotten us? Well, it’s given 750,000 people criminal records and made it much tougher for them to find good jobs.

    A new class of slave labor? Prison labor is big $$ and it’s probably the only way to compete with inexpensive foreign sweatshops: have the taxpayer fund the infrastructure for locking your workers in, then arrest casual drug users and put them to work! When they get out, they’ll be forced immediately into the under-class because nobody’ll hire them for positions of responsibility. It’s a great way of guaranteeing massive downward social mobility.

  • Didaktylos

    I’m half inclined to start believing conspiracy theories that hold that the people who control the government also control the drug trade.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Well, it’s given 750,000 people criminal records and made it much tougher for them to find good jobs. It’s made them ineligible for Pell grants and many college scholarships in most states. It’s broken up families and consigned others to poverty for the reasons stated above. It’s cost billions of dollars, particularly at the state and local levels, where more than half of all law enforcement spending is on drug enforcement. And it’s done no good at all.

    (Emphasis added)

    You’re contradicting yourself, Ed.

  • raven

    IIRC, 17 states have decrminalized marijuana possession. In many it is a civil fine like a traffic ticket.

    It’s made absolutely no difference to how well society functions. Hordes of marijuana crazed addicts don’t sit in the public parks, zonked out, gorging on Doritos, and listening to rock music.

    Same thing with a lot of European countries.

  • Kevin nyc

    giving tickets for possesion is almost as bad! I think that a ticket for smoking in a park is OK , whether for tobacco or MJ.

    and don’t fall for laws where the govt is the only dispenser. Legal home-grow and share and limited commercial sale! I am ok with larger commercial operatins being regulated and the product sold in liqour stores.

  • “That’s one person arrested every 19 seconds!”

    This is just a pet peeve of mine, but I really hate it when people try to express how common something is by dividing into the number of seconds per year. It’s completely meaningless without taking the population into account.

    In a country of roughly 310 million, 853,000 people represent less than 0.3% of the population. And some of these were repeat offenders, so we’re talking about probably less than 1 in 400 people.

    That’s not to say that it isn’t an injustice, that it isn’t a waste of money, etc. Only that, if you want to show how common the scourge of marijuana arrests are, please use a meaningful metric.