Pot Busts Rose Last Year After Hitting a Two-Decade Low in 2015

The total was still 25 percent lower than the 2008 peak, although it was three times as high as the number of marijuana arrests in 1991.


After hitting a two-decade low in 2015, marijuana arrests in the United States rose by 1.6 percent last year, according to FBI data released yesterday. The total, about 653,000, was still 25 percent lower than the 2008 peak of 873,000, although it was three times as high as the number of pot busts in 1991.


The FBI's 2016 report makes it harder than usual to figure out how many people were arrested on marijuana charges, listing total drug arrests but omitting the table breaking them down by substance. That change was part of a broader reduction in the number of tables published by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, from 81 to 29. Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell obtained the more detailed drug arrest data from the FBI. As usual, the vast majority of marijuana arrests involved possession rather than sales or cultivation.

"Arrests for marijuana are on the rise," Angell notes, "even as more states legalize it." And that is without taking into account whatever impact having an old-fashioned pot prohibitionist as attorney general may have on marijuana arrests, almost all of which are the work of state and local law enforcement agencies. As I noted earlier this month, 28 states still treat simple possession of marijuana as a jailable offense.

"Arresting and citing [more than] half a million people a year for a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol is a travesty," says Morgan Fox, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project. "Despite a steady shift in public opinion away from marijuana prohibition, and the growing number of states that are regulating marijuana like alcohol, marijuana consumers continue to be treated like criminals throughout the country. This is a shameful waste of resources and can create lifelong consequences for the people arrested."

NEXT: Federal Relief to Puerto Rico Won't Include Waiving Law That Drives up Import Costs

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. RE: Pot Busts Rose Last Year After Hitting a Two-Decade Low in 2015

    The government is arresting these people for their own good.
    Otherwise they would be free to ingest anything they want and have a good time doing it.
    No government official wants that.

  2. Win some, lose some.

    In 2013, Brandon Olebar became the first person to receive wrongful-conviction compensation from Washington state after the Innocence Project Northwest convinced King County prosecutors that he had been wrongly convicted of robbery.

    A Seattle man who was paid nearly $500,000 by the state and freed after serving 10 years in prison for a robbery he didn’t commit has been sentenced to 3? years in prison for drug- and gun-related felonies.

    1. Well, it’s not like he could really do much in Seattle with a measly half million.

      1. You could get a couple months in a one bedroom, let’s not go overboard.

        Seriously though, Seattle is fucked. It’s going to be nothing but billionaires and socialists, and the ensuing chaos will be beautiful.

        1. The billionaires are socialists.

          Why is it only the ones who inherited their empires from daddy who turn out libertarian? Isn’t that curious?

          1. Have you met either a wealthy inheritor, or a libertarian? Your comment suggests you haven’t, but I have read enough of these threads to know you are a fool.

            1. My stepsister-in-law is an heiress, and she’s insufferable. I’m sure she doesn’t drone on about how wealth is created by personal effort alone, but she does think she’s going to be a novelist.

              1. I grew up in a trailer park and turned out libertarian-ish. I inherited bad teeth and personal responsibility from my parents but, sadly for yours truly, no empire.

                But whether you’re born rich and become libertarian or you’re born poor, become successful and are a socialist, does not matter. Who the messenger of an idea is irrelevant because what the ideas actually are is the only thing that matters.

  3. all that wasted resources

    1. Wasted resources?! Are you kidding me?! We cannot have people walking around high on devil’s lettuce eating up all the funyons and laughing too loud at movie theaters. Lock up all the long haired stoners and put them in a cage for life!

  4. This dab goes out to all my incarcerated stoner pals! [sustained coughing after vaporizing an enormous amount of oil]

  5. Doesn’t the fact that nobody does drugs anymore make it worth it?

    1. So explain the arrests.

  6. “And that is without taking into account whatever impact having an old-fashioned pot prohibitionist as attorney general may have on marijuana arrests…”

    So Sessions started the crackdown more than a year before being sworn in? Or is it possible the state was tyrannical even when Obama was president?

  7. How is it that the federal government can have a MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATENT and still call weed a schedule 1 “drug”???
    When the majority of the country wants it legal, what are governments doing (besides the obligatory corruption and graft) ignoring the public?
    What part of the Constitution of These United States allows for the government to even have an official position on marijuana (or other “drugs”)???

    Why do we give the assholes that want to abuse and use power, more than is Constitutionally allowed???

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.