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Small drop in marijuana arrests, US still near record high

By Martin Williams

WCL News — Police in the US conducted one drug arrest every 20 seconds and one marijuana arrest every 42 seconds in 2012, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation report released September 16, 2013. The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program report counts one arrest for each separate instance in which a person is arrested, cited, or summoned for an offense.

It shows that 82.2% of all drug arrests in 2012 were for possession only and 42.4% of all drug arrests were for marijuana possession (88% of all marijuana arrests). This amounts to almost 750,000 marijuana arrests and more than 1.5 million total drug arrests in 2012. The total represents a slight decrease from years past. During the years 2006 to 2010, police annually made over 800,000 arrests for cannabis violations.

By comparison, police made 757,969 arrests in 2011 for marijuana-related offenses, according to the annual Uniform Crime Report, released October 29, 2012.

The 2012 data shows that police have once again concentrated more effort on arresting more people for marijuana offenses than for any violent crime. This policy is troubling to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization of police, prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. LEAP pointed to the new figures as evidence that no matter how aggressively policd conduct it, the Drug War is a war that can never be won and is pursued at a heavy cost to society as well as to other police investigations of serious crimes.

“These numbers represent a tremendous loss of human potential. Each one of those arrests is the story of someone who may suffer a variety of adverse effects from their interaction with the justice system,” said LEAP executive director Neill Franklin, a veteran police officer for 34 years. “Commit a murder or a robbery and the government will still give you a student loan. Get convicted for smoking a joint and you’re likely to lose it. This is supposed to help people get over their drug habit?”

“Every time a police officer makes an arrest for drugs, that’s several hours out of his or her day not spent going after real criminals,” added retired lieutenant commander Diane Goldstein, another LEAP speaker. “As the country has been investing more and more of its resources into prosecuting drug ‘crime,’ the rate of unsolved violent crime has been steadily increasing. Where are our priorities here?”

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a group of more than 100,000 law enforcement officials and other supporters who, after fighting the war on drugs, now advocate for its end.

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