12-Panel Drug Test


Volume 7

Issue 41.1

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,"

Stroup said.

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:

[email protected].


2003 755,187

2002 697,082

2001 723,627

2000 734,498

1999 704,812

1998 682,885

1997 695,200

1996 641,642

1995 588,963

1994 499,122

1993 380,689

For more information, please contact Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of

NORML at (202) 483-5500.