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The Burden of Marijuana-Related Arrests

In 2017 there were a total of 14,094,186 arrests in the United States. Of those arrests, 786, 545 were for marijuana-related crimes. If you do the math, then marijuana accounts for nearly 6% of all arrests made in the United States. 2005 had the highest number of marijuana-related arrests in United States history. One might think that such a preponderance of arrests would serve to reduce the number of marijuana users in the United States.

The vast majority of arrests made concerning marijuana are not over trafficking or sale of the substance, but over possession. Between seventy-five and eighty-seven percent of arrests over the past decade have been charges of possession.

This statistic reveals a couple of disturbing facets of the law enforcement community as well as the Drug Enforcement Agency. Police and/or the DEA have concentrated on people USING marijuana more than people supplying or selling it.

This unfortunately sends that message that ordinary citizens who buy an eighth to smoke recreationally are more dangerous than often criminal elements who make the marijuana available on the black market.

Granted that there are fewer dealers of marijuana than users in the United States, but this is matters not. The fact that marijuana use has been going up and not down over the past few decades has revealed that whatever tactics employed by law enforcement are just not working.

Today, nearly 83 million Americans admit to having tried marijuana. That’s more than a quarter of the total population of the country, and the figure does not include people who are being dishonest about having tried the substance.

If you eliminate the nearly sixty million people under the age of fourteen, then that marijuana use figure jumps to a third of the population. If this large wedge of the population admits to using an illegal substance, then it seems hardly likely that arrests of users will make a dent. You’d need a lot of cops and would have to lock up a lot of people.

marijuana related arrests

Is any of this constructive? Well, that depends on how you define “constructive.” It’s constructive to law enforcement and the DEA because filling books and files with arrests makes it seem like they are making progress in the eyes of appropriations committees that provide them with funding.

However, in terms of the wallet of the taxpayer, these practices hurt even more than the ridiculous black market prices of weed. Courts are clogged and backed up with trials and appeals concerning small-time possession charges on ordinary citizens. With backlogged cases, courts are forced to delay what are arguably more important cases such as those involving personal injury.

Why is marijuana used so much? Well, there are several reasons, but two are glaringly apparent. The first is that it feels good. If something feels good, people will do it. The second and probably most important is that marijuana use does not have any profoundly negative effects on users or those close to them.

If something feels good and does not hurt you or others, then you will do it. Smoking marijuana does not have to attract much attention at all, since you can do it in the privacy of your own home. As marijuana was also revealed to be the most profitable crop in America from data compiled in 2016, you have all elements of your equation. Smoking marijuana feels good, doesn’t hurt people, is easy and inconspicuous to do, and it’s widely available.

Take another drug, such as heroin and try to apply the same formula. Heroin feels good, perhaps too good. It has been likened to the greatest feeling able to be attained on earth. However, it has been scientifically and empirically shown to severely affect health in terms of overdose and withdrawal. Heroin addiction can severely strain finances and severely affect the life of the user and those close to him/her.

Heroin can be done privately, although it is not as easy to procure as marijuana. Thus, people have to either live near or travel to areas that heroin can be purchased in. Put all of these reasons together and you can get a fairly rudimentary, but accurate picture for why heroin use is not as pervasive or widespread as marijuana use in the United States.

So, will the United States government win its self-proclaimed “war on drugs?” If it continues its arrest and focus procedure, then it certainly will not. The sad truth is that people are actually incarcerated for comparable times as rapists for possessing a certain amount of marijuana. If that is not INJUSTICE in the justice system, then I am not sure what is.

What’s the solution? The DEA and law enforcement community needs to shift its attention away from marijuana. If 83 million people are smoking, there is no way that all of them can be either caught or dissuaded from use.

It is simply not feasible. Furthermore, what are the odds that those who are caught for possessing marijuana will suddenly up and quit their use? Obviously the amount is scant if the number of users in the United States continues to swell.

More arrests and more convictions do not halt a problem. What they should reveal is that the problem is not a problem of the marijuana-using public, but of the United States bureaucracy.

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