Pot Possession Arrests Top Violent Crime by 24%

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on January 22, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Police arrested more people for marijuana possession than for violent crime in 2011 -- the ninth year in a row this has happened, FBI statistics show.

In 2011 alone, police made 663,032 pot-possession arrests nationwide, according to the latest data reported by The Huffington Post. That's 24 percent more than the number of violent crime arrests, which totaled 534,704 in 2011, statistics reveal.

Pot-possession arrests have now topped violent crime arrests every year since 2003, according to the FBI. In fact, a marijuana-related arrest takes place every 42 seconds in the United States, the Marijuana Policy Project estimates; about 86 percent of those arrests are for possession.

What does this say about the efficient use of the police forces across the country?

This police enforcement of marijuana laws doesn't come for free. Tax dollars are being used to pay for these arrests and prosecutions, which by some estimates cost state and local governments billions a year, HuffPo reports.

While some states have moved to decriminalize pot (check out your state's marijuana laws here), Congress has not taken up the issue, and it remains illegal under federal law. Notably, however, President Obama recently said that cracking down on recreational pot users in states where it's legal is not a top priority.

In Colorado and Washington state, where voters approved recreational pot use last fall, some prosecutors dismissed pot-possession cases ahead of changes in the law. So could the same happen in other states too?

Interestingly, American perceptions on this issue are shifting. More than half of Americans believe marijuana should be regulated like alcohol or tobacco, not outlawed, a recent survey found.

Which states could potentially follow the lead of Colorado and Washington? Rolling Stone magazine suggests these five states may be next:

  1. Oregon: Why? It's already had a bid on the ballot once. Plus, it's right next to Washington state.
  2. California: Why? It's already lagging behind other states on cannabis legalization, which is, like, so un-California.
  3. Nevada: Why? Because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Besides, a previous Nevada ballot initiative in 2006 came pretty close.
  4. Rhode Island: Why? It already makes adult recreational use a civil offense instead of a misdemeanor.
  5. Maine: Why? Legislators are working on a cannabis bill that would bring $8 million a year of revenue.

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