For the second year in a row, arrests for cannabis in the United States have gone up, also dwarfing the number of arrests for violent crime. The increases have come in the form of arrests for possession, not manufacture and sales.
According to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, out of 1,632,921 arrests for “drug abuse violations,” 36.7% were for possession of cannabis. That amounts to 599,282 people, which is up from the previous year’s figure of 587,516. In contrast, as Forbes noted, arrests for the sale and manufacture of the plant dropped from 65,734 in 2016 to 60,418 in 2017.
Considering the drop in arrests for the sale and manufacture of cannabis, it is apparent that the increase in arrests for weed is due to possession offenses. In total, just under 91 percent of cannabis arrests were for possession. Despite a ten-year decrease in arrests prior to 2016, the last two years’ crime data show enforcement is now on the rise.
Forbes calculated that according to the figures, a cannabis bust occurred every 48 seconds in the United States last year.
Meanwhile, arrests for violent crime in 2017 reached 518,617, a figure 21 percent lower than total cannabis arrests. Though numerous states have legalized cannabis, the federal government continues to classify it as a dangerous drug.
“Actions by law enforcement run counter to both public support and basic morality,” said Justin Strekal, the political director for NORML, a cannabis advocacy organization. “In a day and age where twenty percent of the population lives in states which have legalized and nearly every state has some legal protections for medical cannabis or its extract, the time for lawmakers to end this senseless and cruel prohibition that ruins lives.”
Though those arrested for cannabis possession are not always cycled through the prison system, the fact that they are processed through the courts at all highlights a monumental waste of resources spent to penalize victimless crimes.