At Least A Quarter Of A Million People Were Arrested For Weed Last Year, FBI Says

Police made more than a quarter of a million arrests for weed-related offenses in 2022, during which time recreational marijuana use was legal in nearly half of the states in the U.S.

Law enforcement officials made at least 227,108 arrests for weed-related offenses last year, according to FBI crime data released on Monday. Of those arrests, 92% were related to possession charges.

FBI crime data is notoriously unreliable, as the Appeal has previously reported. For the past 20 years, between 15 and 30% of law enforcement agencies have not reported complete data to the FBI. There are well-documented instances of police intentionally manipulating crime data and accidentally miscounting instances of certain offenses. Moreover, some of the raw data provided by the FBI in downloaded zip files contradicts data published elsewhere on the site, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said in a statement.

“Nonetheless, even from this incomplete data set, it remains clear that marijuana seizures and prosecutions remain a primary driver of drug war enforcement in the United States,” Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, said. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to be arrested annually for these violations even though a majority of voters no longer believe that the responsible use of marijuana by adults should be a crime.”

Weed possession and use by adults is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Ohio voters are set to decide on whether to legalize cannabis in November.

Last year, President Joe Biden pardoned every person convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law. It was an effort at acknowledging the inequity of some people facing life-ruining consequences for using a drug that is now legal in much of the country.

Although symbolically significant, Biden’s pardons did not apply to most people with weed convictions. He did not have the power to pardon people convicted in state court, who far outnumber those with federal convictions. And even on the federal level, Biden only pardoned those with simple possession convictions. Those with charges related to selling or distributing weed, which account for the overwhelming majority of people with federal cannabis convictions, were not eligible for pardons.

In total, the White House estimated that roughly 6,500 people convicted under federal law, as well as those convicted under D.C. law, would receive pardons. The pardons did not free anyone from prison, although they provided relief from housing, employment and voting restrictions resulting from having a felony record.

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