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Nationwide, marijuana still accounts for 4 in 10 drug arrests

Here in Florida, you need a medical marijuana card to legally buy marijuana, but medi-pot is legal. Also, some localities have decriminalized the drug.

This is, as you undoubtedly know, part of a national trend. Ten states have fully legalized marijuana for adult use, and more than 20 others have broadly legalized medical marijuana. Although the drug remains illegal federally, you might expect that enforcement numbers would have gone down, when considered nationally.

Instead, considering both state and federal law enforcement, police are still arresting people for marijuana more than any other drug.

According to FBI data compiled by the Pew Research Center, law enforcement made approximately 663,000 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in 2018. That amounted to 40% of all drug arrests.

OK, that makes sense if you consider that it’s still illegal in most states for the average person to grow, sell, distribute, import or traffic in marijuana. So, surely, the vast majority of marijuana-related arrests are for these more serious crimes, right?

No. According to Pew, 92% of all marijuana arrests nationwide are for simple possession. In fact, the percentage of marijuana arrests for simple possession has actually risen in recent years. In 2011, for example, only 87% of all marijuana arrests were for possession.

A growing number of Americans live in states where marijuana is at least partially legal. Cities and localities continue to decriminalize or refuse to prosecute marijuana offenses. You would expect that overall marijuana enforcement would be lower than in the past – especially when it comes to possession.

So why are we still seeing such high rates of marijuana arrests?