October 25, 2004
Marijuana Arrests For Year 2003 Hit Record High, FBI Report Reveals Pot
Smokers Arrested In America At A Rate Of One Every 42 Seconds
Washington, DC: Police arrested an estimated 755,187 persons for
marijuana violations in 2003, according to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. The total is
the highest ever recorded by the FBI, and comprised 45 percent 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 42 seconds in
America. "This effort is a tremendous waste of criminal justice resources,
costing American taxpayers approximately $7.6 billion dollars annually.
These dollars would be better served combating serious and violent crime,
including the war on terrorism."
Of those charged with marijuana violations, 88 percent - some 662,886
Americans - were charged with possession only. The remaining 92,301
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. In past years, approximately 30 percent of
those arrested were age 19 or younger.
"Present policies have done little if anything to decrease marijuana's
availability or dissuade youth from trying it," Stroup said, noting that a
majority of young people now report that they have easier access to pot
than alcohol or tobacco.
The total number of marijuana arrests for 2003 far exceeded the total
number of arrests for all violent crimes combined, including murder,
manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Marijuana arrests for 2003 increased 8 percent from the previous year, and
have nearly doubled since 1993.
"Arresting adults who smoke marijuana responsibly needlessly destroys the
lives of tens of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens each year,"
In the past decade, more than 6.5 million Americans have been arrested on
marijuana charges, more 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 time,
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
"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
Later this fall, the NORML Foundation will be releasing a comprehensive
report examining the nature, extent and costs of marijuana arrests in the
United States. The report will feature state-by-state analysis of
marijuana arrests by race, as well as an economic and geographic analysis
of US marijuana arrests. Further information on NORML's forthcoming
report is available by contacting the NORML Foundation at:
YEAR MARIJUANA ARRESTS
For more information, please contact Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of
NORML at (202) 483-5500.