Drugs

The Risk of Arrest for Cannabis Consumers Is Shrinking

Nationwide, marijuana arrests peaked at nearly 873,000 in 2007; the 2019 number was 37 percent lower.

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After rising for three years in a row, marijuana arrests in the United States fell by 18 percent in 2019. Police made about 545,600 such arrests in 2019, according to the FBI, compared to about 663,400 in 2018.

As usual, the vast majority of those arrests—92 percent—were for possession rather than manufacture or sale. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws reported that "much of the national decline resulted from a drop-off in marijuana arrests in Texas," where the total fell by more than 50,000.

Nationwide, marijuana arrests peaked at nearly 873,000 in 2007; the 2019 number was 37 percent lower. While the odds that any given cannabis consumer will be arrested have always been low, they are getting lower. Possession arrests in 2007 represented about 3 percent of marijuana users that year, judging from survey data. That risk in 2019, when there were more cannabis consumers and fewer arrests, was down to about 1 percent.

Marijuana arrests have dropped by 27 percent since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the drug for recreational use in 2012, but the decline has not been smooth. After dropping in 2013, pot busts rose in 2014, fell in 2015, then rose slightly for three consecutive years before dropping substantially in 2019.

Since possession had been legalized in eight states—including California, the most populous—by 2017, it may seem surprising that marijuana arrests initially continued to rise. But because several jurisdictions that legalized pot had previously decriminalized possession, their arrest rates were already relatively low. While California accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. population, for example, it accounted for less than 2 percent of marijuana arrests in 2016.

The risk of arrest is not evenly distributed across the population. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that black people are 3.6 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as white people, even though rates of cannabis consumption in the two groups are similar.

Racial disparities persist even after decriminalization and legalization. In 2016, Illinois eliminated criminal penalties for possessing less than 10 grams (about a third of an ounce). The following year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, four-fifths of the people busted for marijuana possession in that city were African Americans, who account for about a third of Chicago's population.

In states that legalize marijuana, the ACLU found, the black-white gap shrinks but does not disappear. In Colorado, for example, use in public remains illegal, and black people are almost twice as likely to be arrested for such offenses as whites.

NEXT: Brickbat: Tough Crowd

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    1. Jacob “Sullen Dick” is back – promoting drug legalization but not rape or murder legalization. Come on Jacob? Where is the freedom? Need freedom here. Everyone in America needs a prostitute shooting up on the sidewalk in front of their house while their little kids watch, legalized. And thus, while Jacob ponders his utopia of doing drugs and banging prostitutes on a public sidewalk bench, Biden is approaching from the rear, dick in hand. And soon, he’s going to bust his nuts in a giant hot load of taxation, widespread social services and welfare redistributionism and there will be no complaints from Sullen Dick!

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      2. promoting drug legalization but not rape or murder legalization

        k

        1. Rape and murder are often second order consequences of severe drug intoxication.

          1. “Often”, no I don’t think so. “Extremely rare” seems a lot more accurate. Almost everyone who gets severely intoxicated never goes on to rape or murder anyone.
            In any case, locking someone up for drug use is morally equivalent to kidnapping, which I also don’t want to see legalized.

            1. locking someone up for drug use is morally equivalent to kidnapping,

              Desperate drug addicts willing to rob, lie, assault, or steal in order to get their next fix is morally equivalent to slavery. Locking them up frees them, at least temporarily, from their substance slavery.

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            2. “Often”, no I don’t think so. “Extremely rare” seems a lot more accurate.

              Not as rare as you think. I have one niece that passed out in a drug house and was raped while she was unconscious by someone, or 20 or 30 someones, who knows. (She never reported it).

              I have another niece that robbed stores to fund her habit (she was the getaway driver). She did this, as well as have the robber shaft her whatever way he wanted, because he gave her drugs. When you are an addict addicted to extremely addictive drugs – you’ll do anything for your next fix. I have a nephew that routinely sucked the cock of his gay dealer for drugs. Even though he wasn’t gay, he could be gay to get some drugs. None of these people reported any of this. So I don’t think it’s as rare as people think. Find a drug dealer, and you’ll find this shit going on around them. Hard recreational drugs provide zero benefit to the community, the individual, the nation, the world, the future, our progeny, our existential being, a meaningful life. Does anyone wish drug addiction on any of their family members? Exactly. Does anyone want their kids watching a prostitute shoot up on a sidewalk bench right outside their home because it was legalized? Exactly.

            3. In any case, locking someone up for drug use is morally equivalent to kidnapping, which I also don’t want to see legalized.

              First of all, the users of drugs are the victims, not the perpetrators. The perpetrators are the sellers of drugs. So I don’t agree with prison sentences for drug users. That said, I was so relieved when they found my nephew and arrested him for not showing up to court and then sent him to a lax minimum security prison for a short stint. He gets meals there. Can watch TV. Has food/water/shelter. He would be off the drugs and wouldn’t overdose on them. We knew were he was, and we knew he wouldn’t freeze to death behind a dumpster. So we were all actually really glad he went to prison. To be honest… it was the safest place for him. Much safer than the substance slavers he hung around.

            4. My niece-in-law, was shot dead by her own boyfriend who was having a bad hallucinogenic trip. Then he was shooting at his own brother. When he returned to reality, he was so regretful, and was sentenced to 20 years prison. My niece gurgled her last breath in the arms of a police officer trying to save her life. This is the real cost of these drugs, which is why they should be stigmatized out of existence – not embraced by delusional libertarileftists detached from reality.

              My neighbor was wounded in an IED in the middle east with a TBI. He would sometimes get confused and had cognitive problems. He came back and started taking drugs. Overdosed a couple years ago. I wished him well for the last time standing over his casket. His own older brother was spared from his drug problems. He stopped taking them. But not before losing his mind. He has the cognitive ability of a about an 9 year old, and is now somebody’s dependent (family or state).

              An acquaintance, and addict, we grew up with in our town overdosed with a dosage about 10X what would get him high. The cops wrote it up as a homicide and they suspected he owned money to bad people and couldn’t pay up.

              My best friend’s nephew is a meth addict. He’s lost too many brain cells and has behavioral/cognitive problems. He was homeless, but dropped out of contact. My friend never found him again and was not contacted in several years. My friend believes he died somewhere out there, just like his mom, his sister, who was also an addict, and his father who overdosed.

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  2. Weed arrests declined? Good thing we ar bringing back a tough on crime president who knows states rights is a silly thing!

    1. SleepyJoe never saw a drug law he didn’t like.

  3. “the 2019 number was 37 percent lower”

    Fucking Trump…
    The prude doesn’t even drink alcohol either.

    Don’t worry about it though, I’m sure Biden will legalize.
    He may have been a drug warrior throughout his career, but look at him. You know he partakes.

    1. Biden is a swamp creature. He's been in government for 50 fucking years. 50 fucking years ago he had a real job. He says whatever is necessary to get votes and stay in government - He doesn't have any principles. Which is why all these dumbass libertarifleftists are about to be screwed and they don't even know it.

  4. Reason should just change their name to “High Times.” Weed legalization is the only non-statist policy they have left.

    1. Huh? Koch / Reason libertarianism is totally anti-statist — abolish all forms of “border enforcement,” eliminate the minimum wage, what more do you want?

      1. Oh, please do shut up. Everyone here knows you’re a lefty troll who loves Bernie and AOC.

      2. The leftist libertarians here at reason (and democrats nationwide) would be advocating to close the borders off immediately if there were an army of pro-Trump, pro-republican immigrants beating at the gates ready to vote for "R"s and establish a 1 party state, as sqrlsytard would say. And that is the irony in all this. Nobody wants their culture destroyed. And so immigration must be slowed to allow for assimilation. No assimilation = cultural destruction.

        Imagine if libertarians were not a lame and pathetic 1% and were instead maybe a 55%. In this theoretical world that would never happen for libertarians, they have 55% and are the leading political faction. Then - there is influx of a million immigrants looking to come in and vote for government regulations on everything. In just a couple years, that 55% is then 45% and they lost the election. And why? Because too many came in at one time, they did not assimilate, and they formed microcosms of their own cultures in cells across the nation. And now they are ready to vote and force crap down the throats of libertarians. And so the whole "I support open borders" is BS for everyone in principle. Literally everyone.

    2. Oh, they are still pretty good on guns, business regulations, econopmic freedom and probably some other stuff (immigration, depending on your take there).

  5. What did I tell you back to drugs next up an article on sex work.

    1. ENB should have an article out in no time at all, telling us how prostitution is "sex work" and it should be legal, but not in their neighborhood, not in front of their homes, and not near the playgrounds, etc. etc. LOL and why? Because it's morally fucking wrong. Who wishes their daughter to be a prostitute? Literally fucking no one. Which is why reason writers are dumb ass tards.

  6. After writing nearly 100 anti Trump screeds in the past several months, Sullum cannot even bring himself to admit the huge decline in marijuana arrests (in 2019) occurred during Trump’s presidency.

    And in sharp contrast, Sullum’s much preferred candidate for president (i.e. Joe Biden) spent two decades sponsoring and aggressively lobbying other US Senators to sharply increase criminal penalties for many different illegal drug convictions.

    1. Perhaps Sullum can explain why he vigorously campaigned for a War on Drugs activist, while trashing (on a daily basis) the most libertarian president in the US since Cal Coolidge.

      1. Some of the writers and most of the liberitarileftists in the comments section believe he is a dictator.

        He was the most laid back president ever. I mean - he talked a lot of shit on twitter. But what did he do? Peace with NK. Peace in the middle east. Rallying the middle east against Iran. He passed tax cuts. He killed the obamacare mandate. He tried to give the people their taxes back last year. He vetoed the latest military spending bill that congress passed with supermajority - and where was reason's article on that? Nowhere! Because they have TDS.

    2. It was no coincidence either. The Obama admin raided medical dispensaries here in Colorado on many occasions, something Trump refused to do. That was an active change in policy, not happenstance.

      I’d prefer that he descheduled it altogether, but refusing to actively arrest people on Federal charges for selling medicine is progress.

    3. The pot weed boutiques haven’t had to worry about those no-knock door-busting raids conducted by the Obama-era DEA. ha ha ha ha.

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