Thursday, December 1, 2016

Marijuana Law Misery: Stunning Numbers of Americans Still Subject To Arrest

Marijuana Law Misery: Stunning Numbers of Americans Still Subject To Arrest  
By Kurtis Bright

Despite 25 States Legalizing Medical Use, A Stunning Number Of Americans Are Still Being Arrested For Pot

This strange election year of 2016 will go down in history for a number of reasons. But regardless of what you think about the outcome of the presidential election, in the annals of drug law reform this was a banner year.

Even before November, marijuana was already legal in 25 states for medical purposes, and expanded marijuana legalization and decriminalization ballot measures passed in nearly a dozen states.

Even kratom users--who often count on the southeast Asian plant to treat everything from PTSD to anxiety to seizures--are taking an approach of cautious optimism as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency seems to be backing down on its rush to make the plant a Schedule 1 drug.

However despite this uncharacteristic wave of enlightenment over drug laws sweeping the nation in recent years and months, a disturbing number of Americans are still subject to arrest and even jail time over petty pot offenses.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program shows quite plainly that the drug warriors haven’t quite hung up their spurs just yet, even in the face of popular and scientific dissent with the very basis and tenets of their myopic battle. In other words, drug possession and use--even of marijuana--are still significant causes for arrest in the United States.

The Bureau’s data on arrests for violent crime and property crime as culled from the records of local police departments reveals that an alarming number of arrests for simple possession of drugs--primarily marijuana--still continue unabated across the country, despite the changing laws and attitudes toward drug use.

For instance, there were nearly 1.5 million arrests in 2015 alone for “drug abuse,” a catch-all term that includes selling and trafficking as well as simple possession of drugs.

Particularly alarming is the fact that drug arrests are the largest category of arrests overall through all of 2015. With some 10 million arrests recorded in total across the country in 2015, the drug abuse category made up 1,488,707 of them. Property crimes were a close second, and drunk driving came in third at 1,089,171.

The FBI attempted to explain away some of these arrests, suggesting that some of them might well be detentions of the same individuals more than once, people who get caught up by the long arm of the law on a regular basis: “...arrest figures do not reflect the number of individuals who have been arrested,” the report reads. “Rather, the arrest data show the number of times that persons are arrested.”

Given that the drug warrior’s loudly proclaimed  raison d’etre of “stopping traffickers” is at the heart of this massive number of arrests, it is perhaps surprising to some that, even when you include street level drug sales arrests along with those for trafficking, you still only get 16.1 percent of all drug arrests, about 240,000.

That leaves possession arrests making up 83.9 percent of the total, a whopping 1,249,025 of the total arrested for drug offenses. And marijuana offenses made up nearly 40 percent of all “drug abuse” arrests.

That works out to around 1,500 people a day on average being arrested for possession of a plant that is completely legal in four states, and conditionally legal in 25.

It is shameful that the White House and Congress haven’t taken a firmer lead in offering guidance on the prosecution of drug laws in this country. A lame-duck blanket legalization of marijuana nationwide would be a welcome first step, but don't hold your breath.

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