Published On: Wed, Jan 2nd, 2019

Federal Marijuana Arrest Data Inflated by 70 Percent

More and more states across the country are legalizing recreational marijuana alongside medical marijuana. As of November 7, 2018, a Business Insider article reports that 10 states have taken the plunge: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Additionally, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.

Public domain photo/Naturally via Wikimedia Commons

Medical marijuana legalization seems to be a gateway for acceptance of recreational use. For example, after California made marijuana legal for medicinal purposes, then small-scale possession was largely decriminalized for the majority of communities. Now, California has legalized cannabis at the state level. However, marijuana is still very much illegal at the federal level. It is still classified as a Schedule I drug with a
“high potential for abuse” right alongside ecstasy and heroin.

According to a Forbes article, marijuana arrests are rising in the U.S., as more states legalize cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use. The article states that there is “one marijuana bust roughly every 48 seconds” in the U.S. Arrests are up, soaring to 659,700 in 2017 from 653,249 in 2016, driven by prosecution of just possession, as opposed to where it had been possession for growing or selling before, notes the same article. Overall, marijuana-related arrests comprised up to 40% of the U.S.’ total 2017 drug arrests.

Startlingly, a study conducted by The Inquirer found that federal marijuana  arrest data may be inflated by up to 70 percent. The study notes that police in the four suburbs next to Philadelphia, there were 3,100 marijuana possession arrests, an 11 percent increase from the previous year. It also found that in other counties, such as Burlington, Camden and Gloucester, marijuana arrests rose 40 percent between 2015 and 2016, the most recent data available at the county level.

Even with medicinal use being legal, the Philadelphia still had higher arrests in increases each year recently. The question everyone is asking is: why? The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program found that actually, marijuana arrests in federal data may be inflated up to 70 percent.

It may be just a matter of local police agencies reporting every situation where people are caught with marijuana, regardless of if they are criminally prosecuted or not. Generally, the FBI and police agencies agree there is no harm in producing extra information which can be used by administrators and managers in the law enforcement field. Others are less sure, due to the falsification of public data.

Perhaps another contributing factor is seen in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where Supreme Court rulings have made it easier for police to search for marijuana. Both states have decreed that police only need to smell weed in order to conduct an immediate search, without any need for a warrant from a judge. For example, someone could be driving down the road, with marijuana in their backseat, and police could pull them over and arrest them based on smell alone.

Marijuana arrests and charges of possession are serious. An offender can get stuck with a permanent criminal record, large fines, legal bills, a suspended driver’s license and trouble finding work. If you have been charged with marijuana possession, it is necessary to seek counsel. You don’t want to be taken advantage of within the system. You need someone who will stand up for you. That’s why it is important to reach out to professionals who can look at your legal options and provide you with the easiest choice for your own lifestyle.

As more and more data on the impact of legalized marijuana is becoming available, make sure to stay up-to-date so you know your rights and how this industry could potentially impact your life. There are dedicated attorneys that  can help make sense of the marijuana possession laws for you, as well as a helping hand during any arrest ramifications.

Author: Liz S. Coyle is the Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law. She also serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department. She is responsible for internal and external communications for the firm.

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