Even as people in Texas and across the country have increasingly exhibited their disapproval of marijuana possession arrests with a growing number of states opting for full legalization, marijuana arrests are on the rise. Approximately every 48 seconds, someone is arrested on marijuana charges across the United States. Contrary to what some may expect, the vast majority of these arrests do not involve sales, distribution or production of cannabis. Instead, most people being arrested are charged with possession. In 2017, 599,282 people were arrested for marijuana possession, an increase from 587,516 in 2016.
These marijuana possession arrests mark the lion’s share of the 659,700 arrests in 2017 and 653,249 one year earlier. About 40 percent of all drug arrests across the country were related to cannabis last year. Arrests for sales, distribution and production of cannabis actually declined in 2017, going from 65,734 one year earlier to 60,418. This trend in arrests comes despite the fact that a growing number of states are choosing to legalize marijuana, including Nevada, California, Maine and Massachusetts in 2016. All of the states’ decriminalization of possession went into effect almost immediately while Nevada’s legalization of recreational sales went into place in late 2017.
Advocates noted that there are some real public health crises linked to drugs, most notably the opioid crisis. They said that around 100 people lose their lives each day due to dangerous overdoses, questioning why cannabis enforcement would be a priority in the face of serious concerns.
Despite the growing support for legalization, marijuana possession arrests can have a serious impact on a person’s future. People convicted of drug charges can face hefty fines, a criminal record or even jail time. It could also affect their job, housing and educational prospects. A criminal defense lawyer may help people challenge police and prosecution assertions in order to avoid a conviction.