According to the latest FBI data, drug arrests in the United States increased from 2015 to 2016. Though the federal agency used to provide breakdowns on the details of these arrests in its annual “Crime in the United States” report – including which drugs were in question and whether the arrests were made over possession or sale – in its latest report, the FBI is withholding specifics.
On Monday, Tom Angell, a contributor at Forbes, wrote about the increase in drug arrests across the country, noting that while in 2015 there were 1,488,707 drug arrests (“the highest number of arrests” out of all offenses, according to the FBI), in 2016 the agency reported 1,572,579 arrests for drugs, a figure that again accounted for the highest number of arrests.
That’s an average of one drug arrest every 20 seconds … The total number is up roughly 5.6% from the 1,488,707 arrests for drug crimes in the country in 2015.”
According to the 2015 data, 83.9 percent of drug arrests were for possession, and 38.6 percent of those possession arrests were over cannabis, the highest of any drug.
Aside from the troubling increase in arrests from 2015 to 2016, however, is the fact that this year, the FBI did not include a table breaking down the types of drug arrests as it did in 2015. As Angell reported later on Monday:
due to a change in how the annual law enforcement numbers are publicized, it is now harder to determine how many people were busted for marijuana or other drugs specifically.”
Though the numbers are missing from the FBI’s public 2016 report, Angell was able to obtain data from the agency by contacting them directly.
Stephen G. Fischer Jr., the chief of multimedia productions for the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, shared that, as Angell summarized:
Marijuana possession busts comprised 37.36% of all reported drug arrests in the U.S. in 2016, and cannabis sales and manufacturing arrests accounted for another 4.18% of the total.”
These percentages are slightly down compared to 38.6 percent for possession of cannabis in 2015 and 4.6 for sale of that plant that year. Nevertheless, they remain high in a country that has largely rejected the war on weed, if not the war on drugs altogether, and where an increasing number of states are legalizing the plant.
Further, the number of cannabis-related arrests is still higher than 2015 because the total number of drug arrests increased in 2016. Angell explained:
Added together, marijuana arrests made up 41.54% of the 1,572,579 drug busts in the country last year.
That means, based on an extrapolation, that police arrested people for cannabis 653,249 times in the U.S. in 2016.
That averages out to about one marijuana arrest every 48 seconds.
According to the same calculation, there were 643,121 U.S. cannabis arrests in 2015.”
Top photo | In this photo taken Wednesday, June 20, 2012, David Kosmecki, left, talks to Idaho State Police Trooper Justin Klitch in Fruitland, Idaho. Kosmecki was stopped and charged with possession of marijuana (AP Photo/Nigel Duara)
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