Drug Policy

Data: Pot Bust

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If you have any lingering doubts about the political establishment's hypocrisy when it comes to drugs, consider this: Marijuana arrests reached an all-time high during the administration of the first acknowledged pot smoker to occupy the White House. As the Sentencing Project notes in a new report, this increase was part of a pronounced shift in the war on drugs from cocaine and heroin to marijuana.

Total drug arrests rose by 41 percent between 1990 and 2002, from fewer than 1.1 million to more than 1.5 million. Marijuana arrests, which more than doubled, accounted for 82 percent of the increase. By 2002 nearly half of drug arrests were for marijuana, compared to 28 percent in 1990. The vast majority of the pot arrests, 88 percent, involved possession, not manufacture or trafficking.

Although only about one out of 18 marijuana arrests results in a felony conviction, the Sentencing Project estimates that pot-related law enforcement costs total some $4 billion a year. And that's not counting the costs imposed on offenders, including the loss of rights and opportunities associated with a conviction, or the cost of diverting law enforcement resources from predatory crime.

Graph (not available online): Drug Arrest Trends (in thousands)

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