Five Things to Know About Federal Marijuana Drug Cases

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has released its overview of 2016. Marijuana accounts for close to a quarter of federal drug cases, but this overview found that cannabis consumers typically have less serious criminal histories than users of other drugs. Reading through the report, we noted five interesting things:

1. Drug arrests are more common than any other type of federal case.
Drug cases accounted for 31.6 percent of all the cases reported to the commission in 2016; 24.1 percent of those cases were marijuana-related. The only drug that accounted for more cases was methamphetamines, at 30.8 percent.

2. More non-citizens were arrested for marijuana-related offenses than citizens.

More non-citizens had cases relating to marijuana than citizens. While 97.4 percent of crack cocaine offenders were U.S. citizens, only 43.7 percent of marijuana offenders were naturalized citizens.

3. Marijuana crimes are the least likely of all drug cases to involve a weapon.
Fewer than 20 percent of drug offenses involved weapons, and the weapons varied depending on the type of drug involved. Crack cocaine cases were most likely to involve weapons, and marijuana the least: 31.8 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.

4. Time served for marijuana offenses is going down.
Marijuana cases saw the largest reduction in the average sentencing and length of imprisonment, decreasing from 32 months to 28 months. Methamphetamine offenses had the highest rate of imprisonment, with an average length of 90 months. Overall, marijuana offenses resulted in the lowest average imprisonment of any other drug.

5. Marijuana users generally had less serious criminal histories.
Compared to other drug users, especially those who use crack cocaine, cannabis consumers are not dangerous offenders. Almost 70 percent of marijuana users placed in the least serious criminal-history category, while 28.7 percent of cocaine users were assigned to the most serious criminal-history category.

Read the full report here.
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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.