What’s the biggest problem in American crime right now? Murder? Robbery? Rape? If you look at it in terms of how U.S. law enforcement spends its time, the answer is cannabis.
Cannabis crimes account for more arrests than all crimes the FBI categorizes as violent put together. To be fair, that is because presumably (and hopefully) a lot more people are smoking weed than they are committing violent crimes.
And, to be fair again, this doesn’t represent that big of a change in marijuana policing. In fact, weed-related arrests are actually down compared to ten years ago, settling back at rates roughly equivalent to what the nation saw in the mid-1990’s, even though other data supplied by the Post shows that cannabis use has actually risen in the country since then.
What’s unusual about the incredibly high frequency of weed arrests is that weed is legal in at least some form in more than half the states in the country. It is also completely legal to buy, sell, and use in regulated markets by adults 21 and over in 8 states. A majority of Americans also support legalization of cannabis, 61 percent according to a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University.
And yet the country’s law enforcement is spending a hell of a lot of money and resources on the policing of a substance which Americans seem to think is pretty much OK. It’s also worth pointing out, as the ACLU has, that most pot busts do not consist of the police cracking down on drug kingpins, but on small possession charges.
The ACLU also couldn’t help but notice while looking at cannabis arrest statistics that though surveys show white and black people use cannabis at more or less the same rate (actually, white people slightly edge out here), black people are arrested nearly four times as often for cannabis-related crimes as white people are.
We don’t want to jump to conclusions, but if law enforcement is making 5 percent of all arrests based on a substance which a majority of Americans think should be legal, and these arrests grossly and disproportionately affect people of color, it kind of makes it sound like our law enforcement is spending a lot of tax dollars enforcing Jim Crow laws.
Photo by Flickr user Victor