New Study Finds Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those For Violent Crimes

Posted October 14, 2016

The report, released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, points out that violent crime arrests in the USA have dropped 36 percent in the past two decades.

The 196-page report title "Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States", found that every 25 seconds in the US, someone is arrested possessing drugs for their personal use, and on any given day 137,000 men and women are behind bars in the USA for drug possession. Drug use rates remain mostly unchanged from Nixon's time, and while some politicians insist the laws are there to deter trafficking, users are arrested four times as often as sellers. Using illustration from Mary Crabapple, the film highlights three decades of drug policy and America's incarceration explosion from 1986 to 2016.

While the USA struggles with myriad drug abuse issues, including a rapidly growing opioid epidemic, decriminalization of drug use is unlikely. "More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year".

The organizations interviewed 149 people prosecuted for using drugs in Louisiana, Texas, Florida, and NY - 64 of whom were in custody - and 217 other individuals, including family members of those prosecuted, current and former government officials, defense attorneys, service providers, and activists.

Other policy experts and global groups, including the World Health Organization, have called for the complete decriminalization of personal drug use.

There are additional costs to getting arrested for personal possession of marijuana than jail time, of course.

"Eliminate deportation based on convictions for simple drug possession, and amend the drug offense bars to entering the United States and gaining lawful permanent resident status so that individuals are not barred for simple possession of drugs".

This racially disparate enforcement amounts to racial discrimination under global human rights law, said Human Rights Watch and the ACLU.

What's more troubling is the disparity between drug arrests of black versus white Americans. The truth is most jails and prisons aren't providing the medically required treatment for drug dependence that people deserve.

Two leading civil rights organizations are calling for the complete decriminalization of personal drug use in the USA in a comprehensive new report released on Wednesday.

HRW and the ACLU emphasize in their report that while white people and people of color use and sell drugs at nearly the same rates, poor black communities are hit much harder by the war on drugs.

"We're seeing on the one hand the heavy hand of the law coming down aggressively on drug possession, and on the other side of the scales of justice, these sometimes literally weightless amounts of drugs", Borden said in an interview. As a result, lower-income, black Americans are most likely to be arrested for possessing even trace amounts of illicit drugs.

"This means that police made more arrests for simple marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined", researchers found.

The report said the current model of criminalization does little to help those who have become drug addicted.

Trump has conceded that he is "100 percent" behind the legalization of medical marijuana, and he remains open to state's rights to vote for the legalization of recreational marijuana. His crime: possession of half a gram of marijuana. Those arrests tend to be concentrated in neighborhoods with high crime rates, where police officers are on the lookout for any offense. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are engaged in a major push to decriminalize drugs at the federal, state and local levels.

When asked at a Democratic primary debate in January about the failing war on drugs, Clinton told the crowd, "we have to move away from treating the use of drugs as a crime and instead, move it to where it belongs, as a health issue". "It punishes an activity that does not directly harm others".