Then We'll Take it Higher

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According to FBI numbers released today, a record 786,545 people were arrested for marijuana offenses in the U.S. last year, up from 771,608 in 2004. Nearly 90 percent of the 2005 arrests involved possession, as opposed to cultivation or sale. Marijuana accounted for more than two-fifths of the year's 1.8 million drug arrests.

[Thanks to Bruce Mirken at the Marijuana Policy Project for doing the math.]

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  1. Yeah, let’s throw everyone in jail!! We have the highest incarceration rate in the world, and we have the most prisoners in jail of any country.

    Perhaps the folks in the middle east don’t want our brand of democracy/police state.

  2. He isn’t looking at jail time (I don’t think), but you can add Willie Nelson to the list for this year.

  3. We’re a police state? Isn’t that somewhat strong language? Maybe a crossing guard state would be a more accurate characterization. Or hall monitor state.

    I don’t like the incarceration rate, either, especially for this type of crime, but I’m also dubious about the numbers coming out of China or even Russia. I’m fine getting shocked by the disparity of our numbers compared to, say, the rest of the West, but I’m thinking that we probably disclose our prison numbers accurately, unlike some of our authoritarian friends. No way, no how that China doesn’t beat us by four or five times. And North Korea is a giant prison.

    In the Middle East, they just hack you up or kill you in a number of jurisdictions. I don’t think that our insufficient due process is a big issue that they have with us 🙂

    Just saw that thing about Willie, jf. Guess he got the wrong fuel for his RV this time (for those that haven’t heard, Willie runs it on cooking oil).

  4. Eddy Grant! 80s one-hit wonder flashback! Must…click…Back button!

  5. Pro Libertate: apparently Russia used to be much higher than us in per capita incarceration, but ran out of money (plus the politics changed) to incarcerate people! More importantly, the stats show that the US does not have as many policemen as other countries (in absolute numbers and per capita), and isn’t even close to the top. In that respect you have a point. Perhaps “prison state” would be better? Either way you slice it, we are way off the map on this issue. We also lead the world in mixed metaphors.

  6. Eddy Grant’s late-1960s band the Equals made incredibly catchy rock-pop-soul music that would probably help you pass a long prison stretch.

  7. the year’s 1.8 million drug arrests.

    But the War on Drugs is preventing the importation, manufacturing, and sale of drugs! It says so on the label!

    Why are we still arresting six people per minute?

  8. Let’s try that again. I know it’s possible to include a link here.

  9. There’s a problem with this 786,545 statistic: it’s too precise. The actual number of marijuana arrests based on the FBI statistics could be anywhere from 784,700 to 788,400.

    The FBI figures say the following:

    1,846,351 people were arrested

    4.9% of those were for marijuana sale/manufacturing

    37.7% were for marijuana possession

    Those percentages are rounded values, so your result has to be rounded also.

  10. cgee

    Don’t forget the theme song to Romancing the Stone

  11. The actual number of marijuana arrests based on the FBI statistics could be anywhere from 784,700 to 788,400.

    .. that’s still 784,700 to 788,400 too many ..

    .. Hobbit

  12. The problem doesn’t seem to be 786,545 arrests a year, the problem seems to be 786,545 law breakers a year.

  13. Electric Avenue…the ditty that knocked the Ewoks’ Christmas Song out of the top spot on the singles charts. I admit with shame that I cried my eyes out that night.

  14. Lamar,

    That brings up a good point. Maybe instead of more heavily armed, full metal jacket cops, we should put more people out on patrol. Like the citizen’s helper brigades (whatever the heck they’re called) that you see in some towns.

    I think your main point is well taken. Look at the U.S. I think in the old days, cops were far less inclined to arrest people or even to write tickets. With the increased politicization of prosecutions and the reality of revenues being tied to tickets and civil forfeiture, this less arrest-prone cop is a much rarer breed.

    This isn’t to say that crime isn’t actually a serious problem, but some of the things people are being incarcerated for are just bizarre. Even if drugs are illegal, just confiscate the stuff and drive the user home. BFD. We don’t need to send the whole country to prison. In fact, I don’t see a reason to imprison anyone who isn’t an actual danger to society.

  15. Yeah, let’s throw everyone in jail!! We have the highest incarceration rate in the world, and we have the most prisoners in jail of any country.

    According to the same list there is not a single prisoner in the Sudan, Egypt or Cuba. North Korea and China are not even on the list.

  16. If you’d like to do something more than sound off here at H & R:

    http://drugpolicy.org/homepage.cfm

    End the War

  17. Am I the only one left that hasn’t been busted for pot?

  18. The problem doesn’t seem to be 786,545 arrests a year, the problem seems to be 786,545 law breakers a year.

    Right.

    It makes total sense to have uniquely-discriminate laws against harmless behavior, and to spend billions of dollars arresting, convicting, and incarcirating the people who commit ‘crimes’ like possession of plant that is far less harmful to society than say, tobacco?

  19. Grand Chalupa:
    Are you saying, perhaps, that Cuba has more prisoners than the United States? North Korea has more prisoners than the United States (maybe, it has 200,000 political prisoners, perhaps it also has 1.8 million regular bad guys)? Sudan? Which one? Clearly the countries at the end of the list did not report their numbers. Zimbabwe, for example, has an estimated 25,000 inmates vs. over 2 million in the United States.

    Grand Chalupa: Thank you for highlighting my point. The only countries that may have a higher level of incarceration are the most barbaric authoritartian regimes in the world. That’s not the company we want to be in, right? Is that the point you were trying to get across?

  20. “citizen’s helper brigades”

    AKA “Brute Squads”?

    Brute Squads are cool.

  21. The U.S.A.? – still not as bad as North Korea.

    Yay.

  22. as a clarification, the term “arrest” as mentioned in those statistics includes all cases where somebody is charged via citation (no physical arrest) but that technically counds as an arrest for DOJ/FBI stats.

    personally, i don’t think anybody should go to jail for mj. but that aside, the vast majority (VAST) of people who go to jail, let alone prison, for mj, are people with massive priors and/or heavy heavy weight for sale, etc.

    i know for a fact that many street cops routinely dispose of small amounts of marijuana on scene, when they recover it (they often have the offender do it in front of them) vs. wasting their time on mj citation.

    ditto for minor in possession

  23. I’d say we do live in a police state when in my town if your caught playing fetch with your dog in the park you could be arrested. If your caught lighting a sparkler to celebrate the 4th of July you can be arrested. If your caught playing with a Red Rider BB gun in your basement they can arrest you. I could go on & on, but this country is turning into one big Commie state!

  24. I’d say we do live in a police state when in my town if your caught playing fetch with your dog in the park you could be arrested. If your caught lighting a sparkler to celebrate the 4th of July you can be arrested. If your caught playing with a Red Rider BB gun in your basement they can arrest you. I could go on & on, but this country is turning into one big Commie state!

  25. I’d say we do live in a police state when in my town if your caught playing fetch with your dog in the park you could be arrested. If your caught lighting a sparkler to celebrate the 4th of July you can be arrested. If your caught playing with a Red Rider BB gun in your basement they can arrest you. I could go on & on, but this country is turning into one big Commie state!

  26. I’d say we do live in a police state when in my town if your caught playing fetch with your dog in the park you could be arrested. If your caught lighting a sparkler to celebrate the 4th of July you can be arrested. If your caught playing with a Red Rider BB gun in your basement they can arrest you. I could go on & on, but this country is turning into one big Commie state!

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