One Marijuana Bust Every 45 Seconds in U.S. — But Not in Colorado

Additional graphics and more below.
Additional graphics and more below.
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Earlier this year, we noted that marijuana charges in Colorado had fallen more than 90 percent since the passage of Amendment 64, the 2012 measure that made it legal to use and possess limited amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes.

But the number of busts in other locations has continued at a rapid clip.

A new analysis of 2014 FBI crime data accessible here and here reveals that marijuana arrests take place every 45 seconds in the United States.

This information comes courtesy of the Marijuana Majority, a national organization that backed A64 here and advocates progressive cannabis-law reform across the country.

Here are some of the Marijuana Majority's major takeaways from the fresh digits:

• There were 700,993 marijuana arrests in the U.S. in 2014. That's one every 45 seconds.

* Marijuana arrests comprised 44.9 percent of all drug arrests, and drug crimes are the largest category of offenses people were arrested for.

• 88.4 percent of marijuana arrests were for possession alone.

• In comparison, there were 693,482 marijuana arrests in the U.S. in 2013.

Contrast these digits with ones included in a March 2015 report about Colorado from the Drug Policy Alliance. As we reported, the analysis shows that the number of marijuana-related court cases in the state has fallen by more than 90 percent in four major categories.

We've included the complete document below, but here's an excerpt from its introduction that hits some significant highpoints:

This report reveals that marijuana-related charges statewide (not including Denver) decreased by 85% between 2010 and 2014. An overwhelming majority of this decrease in charges came in the aftermath of Amendment 64. Possession charges at all levels (not simply the level now legal or previously considered a petty offense) are the primary reason for the decline. Cultivation charges over the last two years were halved when compared to the previous two years before Amendment 64.

In addition, all drug-related charges are down 23% since 2010. This underscores the central role of marijuana prohibition in the drug war, as well as marijuana legalization’s implications for criminal justice reform more generally.

The analysis includes a number of graphics that spotlight major findings. This one enumerates marijuana charges in Colorado courts, minus some possession data for Denver "because of differences between local ordinances and State Criminal Code." Note that the 2014 figures are "prorated based on data for 49 weeks."

Similarly stark differences pre- and post-Amendment 64 can be found in another graphic depicting marijuana possession court cases in the top twenty Colorado counties, as measured by the 2010 caseload. The same caveats about Denver data and prorated 2014 figures apply to these numbers, as well.

The Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell would like to see figures like these become commonplace beyond Colorado's borders.

In a statement shared with Westword. Angell writes: "It's unacceptable that police still put this many people in handcuffs for something that a growing majority of Americans think should be legal. There’s just no good reason that so much police time and taxpayer money is spent punishing people for marijuana when so many murders, rapes and robberies go unsolved.

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"Once more states follow Colorado's lead — and we expect that many more will over the next couple of election cycles — we'll see these numbers drop significantly."

Here's the Drug Policy Alliance report.



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