Consuming marijuana will not ruin your life, but getting arrested for marijuana absolutely can ruin a person’s life. It happens in America every day. The ‘marijuana scarlet letter’ is a real thing. People arrested for marijuana can have a hard time getting a job, getting a house, and even being accepted as a volunteer. I have a friend who was arrested for growing marijuana in the early 2000’s, and it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that he was able to afford to get the charge expunged from his record. He couldn’t find a decent job to support his family for over a decade, all because of one non-harmful decision that he made as a young adult.
The FBI recently released marijuana arrest data for 2015. The good news is, the number is at its lowest since I was a freshman in high school (1996). The bad news is, A LOT of people are still getting arrested for marijuana in America. Per The Washington Post:
Arrests for simple marijuana possession in the United States fell to nearly a two-decade low last year, according to new statistics released Monday by the FBI.
The number of arrests for marijuana possession in 2015 — 574,641 — is the lowest number since 1996. It represents a 7 percent year-over-year drop, and roughly a 25 percent drop from the peak of close to 800,000 marijuana possession arrests in 2007.
The FBI data suggest that, in aggregate, law enforcement officers are devoting less time to marijuana enforcement relative to other drugs. In 2010, for instance, marijuana sales and possession together accounted for 52 percent of all drug arrests. By 2015, that number had fallen to 43 percent. By contrast, the numbers show police have been making more arrests for cocaine and heroin, and for other non-narcotic drugs.
Legendary activist Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority crunched the numbers, and found that there is a marijuana arrest somewhere in America every 49 seconds…Think about that for a moment. By the time you get done reading this post, depending on how fast you read, several more people will have had their lives potentially ruined because of a plant that is over 100 times safer than alcohol. Tom Angell had the following to say about the latest data release:
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. 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.
I absolutely agree with Tom. My dad has been arrested for marijuana countless times, having racked up three marijuana felonies by the time he was in his mid-30’s. Just like my previously mentioned friend, my dad had to deal with the marijuana scarlet letter for a long time. He lives in a conservative part of Oregon (yes, they do exist) and still has to deal with the stigma, even after Oregon legalized. It’s encouraging that the numbers are dropping, but until they are at zero, we will have to keep fighting.
image via ClayGervaisGibson.com