Racial Disparity Arrests

Law enforcement officials made well over a quarter million arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2022, according to data compiled by the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer.

According to the online database, which was updated on Monday with data for the year 2022, police made at least 227,108 arrests for marijuana violations last year. Of those, 92 percent were for possession only. This total is a slight uptick from 2021, when the FBI reported a total of 219,489 marijuana arrests.

However, these totals are underestimates because a significant percentage of law enforcement agencies still fail to report their data to the FBI. For the year 2022, 83 percent of agencies — representing 75 percent of the total US population — reported their data, up from only 63 percent of agencies in 2021. Therefore, it is unclear whether the year-to-year uptick in reported marijuana possession arrests is due to changes in police tactics or due to more agencies reporting, or both. (Adding to this confusion, in some instances, the raw data provided by the agency in its downloaded zip files is inconsistent with the data published elsewhere on the website.)

In all, some 30 percent of all reported drug-related arrests in 2022 were for cannabis.

Marijuana arrests peaked in the United States in 2007, when police made over 870,000 marijuana-related arrests. At that time, just under half (48 percent) of all drug-related arrests in the United States were for marijuana-related violations.

“While there has clearly been a longterm decline in the total number of marijuana-related arrests nationwide, it is discouraging that there still remains significant gaps in the available information,” said NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “At a time when voters and their elected officials nationwide are re-evaluating state and federal marijuana policies, it is inconceivable that government agencies are unable to produce more explicit data on the estimated costs and scope of marijuana prohibition in America.” 

He added, “Nonetheless, even from this incomplete data set, it remains clear that marijuana seizures and prosecutions remain a primary driver of drug war enforcement in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to be arrested annually for these violations even though a majority of voters no longer believe that the responsible use of marijuana by adults should be a crime.”

Since 2012, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use marijuana possession. Voters in Ohio will decide on a similar marijuana legalization measure in November.

Information on prior year’s arrest data is available on NORML’s website.

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