Marijuana Justice

Federal officials charged far fewer people with marijuana-related crimes in 2021 as compared to previous years, according to data compiled by the US Sentencing Commission in its 2021 Annual Report.

Just under 1,000 people were charged federally with violating marijuana laws in 2021. They compromised less than six percent of those charged with violating federal drug laws that year.

By contrast, federal officials charged nearly 7,000 people in 2012 with marijuana offenses. That was greater than the number of people charged with any other drug violation. By 2016, that total fell to fewer than 3,500 people. The total has continued to fall steadily since then.

Commenting on the latest federal figures, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Although Congress has failed to amend federal cannabis laws, clearly the attitudes and priorities of federal prosecutors have shifted in the era of state-level marijuana legalization. Now it’s time for federal lawmakers to codify these changes in priorities by descheduling marijuana.”

NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox added: “Despite this downward trend in federal marijuana prosecutions, America’s outdated federal laws are still having a significant and unnecessary impact on real peoples’ lives. Congress has the opportunity to change that. Lawmakers must continue to build momentum to end our failed marijuana prohibition policies and help those who have been unjustly hurt by them. We urge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a floor vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expunge Act immediately, and sincerely hope that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sticks to his planned April introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.”

Overall, 31 percent of all federal offenders in 2021 were charged with drug violations, up from about 26 percent in 2020. Just under half of all people charged with federal drug offenses in 2021 were prosecuted for trafficking methamphetamine.

The 2021 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics is available online here.


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