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Is Cannabis legalization driving the increase in marijuana arrests?

Several news articles have been published lately on how arrests are rising in the U.S. as more and more states legalize Cannabis. In fact, according to a recently released FBI report, there is a marijuana arrest about every 48 seconds. How is this even possible? Wasn’t the legalization of Cannabis supposed to actually decrease the number of marijuana arrests, a majority of which have controversial problems related to social injustice and racial bias? Moreover, marijuana is legal for medical use and for recreational use in more states than at any time in over 70 years. Moreover, for all drug arrests, marijuana (again, increasingly legal!) accounts for a bit over 90 percent (FBI, 2017).

The data is enlightening: in 2016, many of the arrests were for marijuana sales and manufacturing and those arrests have actually decreased. However, arrests for possession had increased by over 12,000 in by September 2018. This despite the fact that the penalization of possession for adults was lifted in California, Maine and Massachusetts and also despite the fact that public support is increasingly and overwhelmingly inclined towards cannabis legalization. Another interesting fact: Take, for instance, the fact that just in 2017, marijuana arrests made over 40 percent of all drug arrests. And as legalization spreads, so the rate of arrests increases: there were more arrests in 2017 than in 2016, and in 2018 than last year. At this rate, according to experts, there will soon be a drug arrest every 20 seconds (Forbes, September 24, 2018)

You can find the 2017 FBI study by clicking here []

I don’t have the answer to the question that serves as title to this post, but the trend, despite appearing contradictory is yet a very concerning reality. And yes, the War on Drugs continues, despite supposedly more relaxed legislation, to target people of color and the poor at rates higher than any other group and disproportionately to their numbers and rates of use in U.S. society.

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