October 28, 2003 - From The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
Marijuana Arrests For 2002 Near Record High Despite Feds' War On Terror, FBI Report Reveals
Pot Smokers Arrested In America At A Rate Of One Every 45 Seconds
Washington, DC: Police arrested an estimated 697,082 persons for marijuana violations in 2002, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report, released yesterday afternoon. The total is among the highest ever recorded by the FBI, and comprised nearly half of all drug arrests in the United States.
"These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor marijuana offenders," said Keith Stroup, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), who noted that at current rates, a marijuana smoker is arrested every 45 seconds in America. "This effort is a tremendous waste of criminal justice resources that should be dedicated toward combating serious and violent crime, including the war on terrorism."
Of those charged with marijuana violations, 88 percent - some 613,986 Americans - were charged with possession only. The remaining 83,095 individuals were charged with "sale/manufacture," a category that includes all cultivation offenses - even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use.
The total number of marijuana arrests far exceeded the total number of arrests for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Since 1992, approximately six million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, a greater number than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming combined. Nearly 90 percent of these total arrests were for simple possession, not cultivation or sale. During much of this period arrests for cocaine and heroin have declined sharply, indicating that increased enforcement of marijuana laws is being achieved at the expense of enforcing laws against the possession and trafficking of more dangerous drugs.
"Marijuana legalization would remove this behemoth financial burden from the criminal justice system, freeing up criminal justice resources to target other more serious crimes, and allowing law enforcement to focus on the highest echelons of hard-drug trafficking enterprises rather than on minor marijuana offenders who present no threat to public safety," Stroup said.
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