Marijuana Arrests Nationally Remain Well Above Historic Lows
In 2015 someone in the U.S. was arrested on marijuana charges every 49 seconds. Nine in ten of the 643,000 people arrested (89%) were charged only with possession while 11% faced more serious charges related to manufacture and sale of cannabis products. Overall, cannabis arrests have fallen by 25% from their peak of over 848,400 in 2009, however, the arrest rates in 2015 was still 64% higher than it was in 2000, a year when less than 392,000 people were arrested. Marijuana arrests account for 43% of all drug related arrests in 2015, a reflection of its widespread use and the continued aggressive prohibition enforcement in many parts of the country. By comparison, arrests for heroin, cocaine and their derivatives accounted for just 25% of all drug arrests in 2015.
With a record nine states slated to vote on either medical or adult use legalization this November, the continued expansion of cannabis legalization in the U.S. should result in further declines in arrest rates, as enforcement resources are diverted from arrest and prosecution to regulation of the legal market. Additionally, since research by the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that despite equal levels of cannabis use among all races, blacks were four times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than whites, many drug law reform advocates have argued that legalization presents an opportunity to address the enforcement imbalance that has focused arrests and incarcerations on poor and minority communities.