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Marijuana Arrests Declining, But Still High: Who's Working On A Solution?

Marijuana Arrests Declining, But Still High: Who's Working On A Solution?

The media has been going on and on about how marijuana arrests had hit its lowest point in two decades last year. According to the FBI, the figure fell by 8 percent in 2015.

Leaving 2014 aside, marijuana arrests have been declining consistently since 2007, suggesting an increasing consensus around the decriminalization of cannabis use and possession — which accounted for almost 90 percent of the total number of marijuana arrests.

Source: FBI

As it can be appreciated in the chart above, between 1990 and 2007, interest to arrest cannabis consumers spiked considerably. The reason behind this, however, is still not completely clear.

Related Link: Jay Z On America's Racist War On Drugs: It's A Failure, An Epic Failure

“Changes in marijuana use do not account for the surge in arrests,” Jacob Sullum explained in a Forbes article. “To the contrary, the risk of arrest for the average cannabis consumer rose substantially between 1991 and 2007, when the number of marijuana arrests tripled. Marijuana accounted for 52 percent of all drug arrests by 2010, up from less than 29 percent in 1991.”

The decline in marijuana arrests in recent years has been often associated to legalization of possession. Cases like those of Colorado and Washington, where marijuana possession arrests fell by more than 80 percent after legalization, are regularly cited. Similar cases can be observed in Oregon, Alaska, Washington D.C. and Massachusetts.

But, while it is certainly good to see arrests numbers drop, 643,121 marijuana arrests in 2015 still seem like too many. “Even though marijuana offenders typically do not spend much time behind bars, they have done nothing to deserve the cost, inconvenience, humiliation, loss of freedom, and ancillary penalties associated with an arrest,” Sullum stated.

“While the numbers are thankfully dropping over time, it’s alarming and simply unacceptable that someone is harassed by the police just for marijuana every 49 seconds in this country,” Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell concluded. “Polls now consistently show that a growing majority of Americans supports full legalization, and it’s about time more politicians and law enforcement caught up. Our movement is set to more than double the number of states with legalization this November, and we won’t stop pushing until the day when no one is put into handcuffs or cages just because they choose to consume cannabis.”

Who’s Working On A Solution

Many experts have argued that the elevated number of marijuana arrests is more of a political problem than a policing issue. So, in the end, it seems like politicians are the best suited to come up with a solution. Below is a look at some Senators and Congressmen/Congresswomen who support the legalization of marijuana.

Related Link: What Presidential Candidates Think About Marijuana Policy And Legalization

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) twenty U.S. representatives and two senators have “publicly declared his/her support for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults.”

While this figure is not negligible, neither is it close to the public opinion, as polls suggested public support for the national legalization of marijuana stands between 54 and 61 percent.

Having said this, support for some kind of change in marijuana policy is much more widespread in the House. “In addition to the members supporting legalization, 254 congressmen and senators support policies related to the decriminalization of marijuana, or to allowing marijuana for medical use,” Christopher Ingraham wrote in a Washington Post article.

Interestingly, it seems like marijuana reform is more of a Democratic issue, with 92 percent of Democrats supporting, at least, each State’s right to set its own policy. On the other hand, only 37 percent of Republicans support such a stance.

Furthermore, among the 22 Congressmen and Congresswomen that back a full legalization of marijuana, we can count only one Republican, California’s Dana Rohrabacher; among the 32 largest opponents of cannabis reform, only one is a Democrat, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper.

Below is a full list of marijuana legalization supporters, as reported by the Washington Post.

  • Mike Honda (D–Calif.)
  • Jared Huffman (D–Calif.)
  • Barbara Lee (D–Calif.)
  • Ted Lieu (D–Calif.)
  • Zoe Lofgren (D–Calif.)
  • Alan Lowenthal (D–Calif.)
  • Dana Rohrabacher (R–Calif.)
  • Eric Swalwell (D–Calif.)
  • Ed Perlmutter (D–Co.)
  • Jared Polis (D–Co.)
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton (D–D.C.)
  • Ruben Gallego (D–Ill.)
  • Jan Schakowsky (D–Ill.)
  • Chellie Pingree (D–Maine)
  • Mike Capuano (D–Mass.)
  • Jerrold Nadler (D–N.Y.)
  • Earl Blumenauer (D–Ore.)
  • Jeff Merkley (D–Ore.)
  • Steve Cohen (D–Tenn.)
  • Don Beyer (D–Va.)
  • Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.)
  • Mark Pocan (D–Wis.)

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Disclosure: Javier Hasse holds no interest in any of the securities or entities mentioned above.


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