Despite Legalization, FBI Data Says Marijuana Arrests Are On The Rise

Americans made a decision on election day in 2016 that recreational marijuana would have a future in the United States. Residents in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada marched into the ballot box with their intentions to legalize pot; and walked out with a win. The legalization of medical marijuana passed in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota. The only state that saw a marijuana proposition fail, was in Arizona, which has already legalized medical marijuana.

Despite the movement to make pot more available nationwide (with more states considering marijuana measures in the future), recent FBI data shows that marijuana arrests actually rose in 2017.

Looking at the FBI Statistics

Marijuana doesn’t have the same reputation as other hard-hitting (illegal) drugs. In fact, only two states reported a rise in crimes involving pot in the FBI report. But according to a Brampton drug lawyer, overall the arrests were higher across the U.S., which is interesting considering how lenient pot legalization attitudes have become in just the past few years. In fact, the FBI report math works out that one person is arrested every 48 seconds for a marijuana-related offense.

In 2017, marijuana arrests totaled 659,700, an increase of over 6400 arrests from the year prior. These arrests, according to the data, came primarily from the possession of the drug rather than the selling or growing of it. Arrests involving the sale or manufacturing of marijuana did see a decrease which seems to be a direct reflection of the decriminalization and legalizations taking place around the country.
The FBI statics show an increase in arrests for other types of drugs, including methamphetamine, opioids, heroin, and cocaine. The report revealed that more marijuana arrests could have likely been made, but an increase in “hard-core” drug use led law enforcement to place their focus on these other drug classifications. Other crimes tend to follow these drug classifications, such as theft and battery, which doesn’t appear to be the case as much with pot-related arrests.


The Governors Highway Safety Association  (GHSA) conducted research with the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility and found in 2015 (most recent data available) that 43% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs. Currently, governments across the country in partnership with organizations above are working together to learn more about how to identify and handle drugged driving incidents. Arrests relating to marijuana and driving are on a state by state bais and if you would like to know where your state stands you can view the GHSA table here.


As more arrests are made in relation to marijuana laws there are signs around the country that an arrest might be the least of your worries.  If some lawmakers have their way, students who are arrested for illegal pot possession may have their financial aid suspended. Buying a home? You might be denied a loan. In a custody battle? A parent arrested could see their custody orders significantly changed. These are just some of the suggested examples found in a report from the State of Virginia Crime Commision.


Whether you agree with the legalization of marijuana or not, you are paying for the monitoring, processing or convicting of its presence in the U.S.. Notwithstanding the costs associated with the initial crime, arrest and court appearances; how much does it cost to just “house” a marijuana offender? The Urban Institute of Justice Policy Center (UIJPC) says that an average stay for someone with a marijuana offense is 38 months. The annual cost of a minimum security prison stay (where most of these offenders end up) is $21,000. If we calculate the numbers from the FBI report with the numbers from the UIJPC, the cost to house offenders is over $13,853,700,000 annually.

These costs alone are leading lawmakers to consider how to handle marijuana offenses. Between sentence times, decriminalization of pot or just legalization of the drug, lawmakers are wondering if those funds could be used towards helping others with more serious addictions.

The future for marijuana is still very much unknown. While states move to legalize it, they are playing catch up in how to handle the ramifications of those decisions. Even with the unknowns, one thing seems clear about the future of pot. According to the Marijuana Business Daily, marijuana is estimated to be a $20 billion business by 2020.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.