Even with 23 states and D.C. allowing legal adult-use cannabis markets and two-thirds of the country permitting legal medical, the police arrested nearly a quarter million people for marijuana-related violations in 2022, according to FBI data.
The exact figure was 227,108 arrests. Of that number, 92% were for possession only. This number is a slight jump from 2021 when the FBI reported a total of 219,489 arrests for marijuana.
But be forewarned: These are underestimated figures as “a significant percentage of law enforcement agencies still fail to report their data to the FBI,” said a news announcement on the marijuana-related arrests for 2022. Last year, 83% of agencies reported their data versus 2021 when it was only 63%. Because of the underreporting, it remains unclear whether the slight increase in reported marijuana violations was “due to changes in police tactics or due to more agencies reporting, or both.”
Interestingly, 30% of all reported drug-related arrests in 2022 were for cannabis.
In 2007, marijuana arrests hit their peak when police made over 870,000 marijuana-related arrests. At that time, that number was only under a half (48%) of all drug-related arrests in the U.S.
Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a Washington DC-based nonprofit that advocates for marijuana laws reform, said he found it to be a promising sign that there has been a decline in the total number of marijuana-related arrests nationwide. Conversely, he also found the underreporting to be discouraging.
“At a time when voters and their elected officials nationwide are re-evaluating state and federal marijuana policies, it is inconceivable that government agencies are unable to produce more explicit data on the estimated costs and scope of marijuana prohibition in America,” he said in a statement.
In November, Ohio could be the next state to legalize marijuana as voters will have the choice to decide on a marijuana legalization measure in the voting booth.