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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Drugs and Marijuana Dominate Nation's Arrests -- As Usual

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 7:00 AM

  • Busted

Yes, America is the world's most incarcerating nation. But take solace in this: Fewer people are arrested in America every year, according to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reporting data.

They just keep getting arrested for the same few things. 

Exactly 9,536,787 people made up the 12.4 million arrests in America last year, according to the FBI's annual survey of the nation's police agencies. And police are kept most busy by three common offenses: drugs, drinking and driving, and theft comprise 30 percent of all arrests -- but not in that order.

There were 1.26 million arrests for theft, and 1.21 million people were busted for

DUI. That means that drug violations are the most common crime in

America, with 1,531,251 arrests, the FBI reported. And of these,

marijuana crimes made up nearly half, with the vast majority -- 81.8

percent -- of busts for simple possession.

All told, there were nearly 4,000 arrests per 100,000 people in 2011.

Perhaps, as a result, it's decreasingly likely to be arrested in America, with arrests down 5 percent from 2010. 

That said, the war on drugs is hardly abating. Sales and manufacturing of drugs accounted for only 18.2 percent of all drug-related arrests. 

Marijuana possession was the crime in 43.3 percent of all those 1.5 million drug-related arrests, meaning nearly 660,000 busts for simple possession of marijuana in 2011. 

When accounting for police officer salaries and court costs, the nation's drug war costs as much as $3 billion a year, according to an estimate by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of current and former cops who oppose the Drug War. That doesn't count the cost of incarceration.

"That's a lot of money to spend for a practice that four decades of unsuccessful policies have proved does nothing to reduce the consumption of drugs," said retired Baltimore narcotics officer Neill Franklin, the nonprofit's director.

There is some good news. In the West statistical group, which includes Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and all points between there and the Pacific, marijuana (23.5 percent) is less policed than heroin and cocaine (23.9 percent). Oddly, what many consider to be the area's chief scourge -- methamphetamine -- does not receive its own classification; "other dangerous nonnarcotic drugs" are the top drug charge in the west, with 32.6 percent of arrests.

Still, this does mean that someone is arrested for drugs every 21 seconds in the United States. And marijuana leads someone into police custody every 42 seconds -- which is about the time it took you to read this blog post.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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