Whenever someone tries to challenge me on my support for marijuana reform, I always ask them why they would rather have law enforcement going after marijuana users instead of violent criminals. That almost always puts marijuana opponents on their heals. They usually quickly offer up the false claim that ‘no one gets arrested for marijuana’ and make it sound like cops could care less about marijuana.
The fact of the matter is that cops very much enforce marijuana prohibition. So much so that a study concluded that there were more arrests in 2015 for marijuana possession than arrests for all types of violent crimes combined. Per the New York Times:
With marijuana use on the rise, law enforcement agencies made 574,641 arrests last year for small quantities of the drug intended for personal use, according to the report, which was released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch. The marijuana arrests were about 13.6 percent more than the 505,681 arrests made for all violent crimes, including murder, rape and serious assaults.
The report comes in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott last month in Charlotte, N.C. Mr. Scott, 43, had attracted police attention in part because, the police said, he was smoking marijuana.
The report is the latest study to highlight the disparate treatment African-Americans often receive in the criminal justice system, including disproportionate numbers of blacks who are sent to jail when they are unable to pay court-imposed fees, or stopped by the police during traffic stops or while riding bicycles.
Imagine if cops focused all of the resources that go into busting marijuana users towards going after violent criminals? How many rape kits go untested every year in the United States? How many child predators are on the streets right now with no members of law enforcement actively looking for them? How many unsolved murders are there on the books right now in America? Why are we arresting people for possessing a plant that is safer than alcohol?
Marijuana prohibition is a shameful, harmful public policy. It’s beyond time that it ended, and cops were focused on fighting real crime, and not on busting good people who choose to consume marijuana. I hope that the findings of this study are pushed far and wide, and that it helps build more momentum for ending federal prohibition. Cops should be fighting actual crime!