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America’s 20-Millionth Marijuana Arrest – Coming To Your Home Or Person?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director October 3, 2008

    By George Rohrbacher, NORML Board member

    An odometer roll over effect of sickening proportions is about to happen this October: American law enforcement will make its 20-millionth marijuana arrest. Regrettably however, our country will not be one step closer to any solution of this “problem” than we were when the federal government first started arresting people for cannabis seventy-one years ago today, with the first federal cannabis prohibition arrest of Samuel Caldwell.

    Halfway through this epoch in American history known as cannabis prohibition, Richard M. Nixon’s own handpicked Shafer Commission studied cannabis for nearly two years and concluded: no criminal penalties for adult possession of 100 grams of marijuana.

    Nixon was shocked by their findings and tried to bury the Shafer Commission’s report. Nixon instead proceeded with the “don’t try to confuse me with the facts, I’ve got my mind made up” approach to governance, and the full-scale war on cannabis commenced.

    After four decades, this institutionalized war on ganja and its users grows larger with each passing year. This war on otherwise law-abiding cannabis consumers has created literally millions and millions of unnecessary tribulations, taxpayer costs and casualties. In the period 1965-2007* there were 19,342,363 arrests for cannabis offenses, 89% of them for the possession of a small quantity of cannabis. Just before Election Day 2008, cops will arrest their 20-millionth man (or woman) for cannabis.

    And if you’re a regular ol’ cannabis consumer or a medical cannabis patient in need of one’s medicine, that tragic 20 millionth arrest could be you!

    Could be it be me, or one my loved ones!

    At the current pace of arrest, the 20-millionth cannabis arrest will happen by Oct. 10, 2008, within a week of the 71st anniversary of America’s very first federal cannabis arrest of the terminally ill Sam Caldwell in 1937.

    Who will he or she be, this unlucky person? Who will be the 20,000,000th victim of arrest during America’s cannabis prohibition?

    Watch out! It could be you!

    *1937-1965 marijuana arrest data is sketchy, but this adds many tens of thousands more arrests to the total. 2007 was the worst year on record with a total of 872,721 marijuana arrests, up 5% from 2006.

    **The numbers of Americans arrested for marijuana offenses now are so huge, perhaps the only way to get a grip on the humanity of this prohibition-driven social disaster, is to think of just a few of the people who have paid the ultimate price since I joined NORML’s Board of Directors in 2004, those who actually lost their lives in the enforcement of cannabis prohibition.

    John Walters, Bush’s Drug Czar, appearing on C-Span recently said, “We didn’t arrest 800,000 marijuana users…that’s [a] lie… The fact is today, people don’t go to jail for possession of marijuana. Finding somebody in jail or prison for possession of marijuana is like finding a Unicorn. It doesn’t exist.” Well, Walters is either lying or not reading his FBI Crime Reports, or both. Please, take an extra moment and look through this list of four cannabis prohibition victims to see if you can find a ‘Unicorn’.

    1) Jonathan Magbie, RIP: Washington D.C., died Oct. 30, 2004. A wheelchair-bound, 28-year old, African-American paraplegic who needed a respirator to breathe at night. Jonathan was sentenced to 10 days in jail for the possession of one single joint. His mother tried frantically for days to get Jonathan’s respirator to him through the jail’s paperwork. He died on the fourth day of his jail sentence from respiratory failure, just a few miles from the White House, ONDCP, DEA and other multi-billion federal bureaucracies waging a war on cannabis, when in stark reality their war is directed at folks like Jonathan Magbie.

    2) Timothy Garon, RIP organ transplant patient from Washington State, died May 1, 2008. Timothy was first on an organ transplant recipient list until a prohibitionist medical administrator busted Timothy off the list because Timothy tested positive for the medical marijuana that had been legally recommended and administered by his own doctor. Timothy died in Seattle while his case was under appeal.

    3) Rachel Hoffman, RIP, 23, Tallahassee, Fl was last seen alive on May 7, 2008. After two small quantity pot arrests, and a search of Rachel’s home that found a little more, the cops forced Rachel to go undercover without telling her parents or lawyer, by using the fear of the much more serious charges that might be filed against her if she didn’t do what the police demanded. The cops then placed Rachel on a baited hook and went trolling for sharks. The Tallahassee police department sent Rachel out to try to make a crack and firearms buy. Rachel Hoffman was found dead in a nearby county two days later.

    Then there is cannabis prohibition’s first official victim

    Samuel R. Caldwell, RIP, America’s first federal marijuana arrest, Denver, CO, Oct. 5, 1937. Arrested for selling two joints the day federal prohibition laws went into effect and was sentenced just two days later to four years in Leavenworth. Sam died of stomach cancer before his sentence was up. Sam Caldwell, America’s first incarcerated medical marijuana patient!

    Just four ‘Unicorn’ sightings from America’s 20-million marijuana arrests…and remember: 872,000 annual cannabis arrests, 2,390 arrest per day, 99 arrests per hour, one every 37 seconds. Just imagine how many more ‘unicorns’ there are, and are you like me when I say I’m insulted that a cabinet level officer in the Executive Branch has to lie to downplay the negative and costly effects of his $25 billion a year bureaucracy’s failure to actual control cannabis cultivation, sales and consumption.

    Hey Walters, how about some tax stamps for cannabis consumers just like your friends in the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries enjoy?

    “We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For.” — Pueblo saying

    While the staff at NORML and the NORML Foundation assiduously avoid including funding requests in their blog posts and news alerts, as a NORML Board member I’m asking you to join the other board members and I in helping to expand NORML’s uniquely important educational, legislative and litigation programs—as well as allowing the national office to be as supportive and responsive as possible to the organization’s growing networks of both state chapters and lawyers.

    I will be moderating a panel at NORML’s upcoming 37th annual national conference in Berkeley entitled: What If We Arrested 20 Million Americans—And No One Cared?

    These public conferences are the most important political gatherings of the year for the cannabis law reform community and I hope you, your family and like-minded friends can join us October 17-19. Conference details found here.

    37 Responses to “America’s 20-Millionth Marijuana Arrest – Coming To Your Home Or Person?”

    1. Pakapal says:

      It’s obvious that those who have been poisoned to think of marijuana/hemp in a negative way will never be swayed by right minded arguments or by the pleas for compassionate understanding.

    2. Watch Zeitgeist Addendum 3/10/08 says:

      You should make the mug shoot picture available as a poster for download

    3. Anonymous says:

      “It’s obvious that those who have been poisoned to think of marijuana/hemp in a negative way will never be swayed by right minded arguments or by the pleas for compassionate understanding.”

      People are very stubborn and react aggressively when their conditioned beliefs are challenged- it is rare for people to change their minds. It takes a lot more than proof for new ideas to be accepted because proponents of the old system will generally continue to oppose them no matter what. It is not until years later, when these people have died out and newer generations have filled their places, that progress takes place (see: Galileo, Ignaz Semmelweis, etc.)

    4. Jim says:

      Thanks Pakapal and anonymous. Y’all are right. It’s a characteristic noted by psychologists. I’m an INTJ that can easily change my mind given GOOD facts, but many people unfortunately are like what Allen says about Nixon – “don’t try to confuse me with the facts, I’ve got my mind made up”.

      Some people just can’t help it. NOT that it’s a good excuse for what they’re doing to the rest of us.

    5. VIPelle says:

      Among those 20 million arrested are: Louis Armstrong, Hal Ashby, Dan Aykroyd, Candy Barr, Lord Buckley, Neal Cassady, Eric Clapton, Macaulay Culkin, Bob Denver, Art Garfunkel, Billy Gray, Gene Krupa, Mezz Mezzrow, Robert Mitchum, Willie Nelson, Anita O’Day, Aaron Sorkin, and Ron White. I feel so much safer now.

    6. Kada says:

      Smoking cannibis is a part of my culture. It’s like the governemnt is telling me i have no right to have a culture different than they are used to. Drinking is a part of their culture, but they are used to it, so they embrace it. Arresting cannibis smokers is a type of culture rasism. I think racism exist more now because of beliefs, religion and culture not so much about skin color. It’s only natural that people think their ways (beliefs, thoughts, culture and religion) are the correct ways of life. I think the biggest problem people have is accepting others thoughts and opinions. Shouldn’t my culture be protected? Instead we are targeted as criminals, when there is no crime that has been commited and we are harming no one.

    7. Kada says:

      I guess i could spell cannabis correctly if i am going to post something on the subject. oops.

    8. Christopher says:

      What I find, in the words that make up the most valuable laws has become like a light to me… esp. the cannabis laws. It hard see that light… right up untill one looks to the Decleration of Independance, and the Constitution of the United States, and considers that both of the documents, were penned on HEMP papper. I can see my rights are being violated, and by whom.

    9. Nick says:

      its disgusting how “our” government decides its ok to prohibit marijuana, when it has not killed one person. and they feel that alcohol and tobacco isfine….
      as long as they are making thier money i guess..
      its disgusting and it bothers me

    10. LA says:

      What I find sad is that I am smoking a pack a day of cigs. because I can’t find the other. Depressing to me.

    11. James White says:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLm1Z7oa7RI

      MA Lying DA’s want to pretend that people don’t get arrested for pot. I did. And it follows me for life in MA. A CORI criminal record for life. See the video. And the MA DA’s six lies in two 1/2 minutes of screen time.

    12. toph says:

      I wish everyone who had a grandmother die of stomach cancer like mine did would tell their story. She was pro-American, but felt it was a SIN not to be able to have a medication that would help her. I’m a staunch Republican, but I am for the legalization of marijuana. It’s time to stop the lies. Even the AMA has come around.

    13. Shane says:

      You know this is the way I see it:

      Those who appose MJ do not appose it because it is a drug that makes you crazy, they appose it because it doesn’t.

      Remember that youth video normal did a story on that had a stupid MJ smoker in it and they were hitting him with a basket ball in the head to prove that smoking MJ makes you stupid?

      In the world today a group of better than the next guy kids is going to take a sleepy looking kid out back behind the school and do the same thing to him, they are going to carry on the fight against pot, just like they are being taught. He/she might die.

      They play dirty, which only proves it is a holy war no different than the war in Iraq.

      What I mean by this is that I tried to publish a fallow up story “about the girl who was killed in Tenn.” in a paper and it was turned down, because it was a story that in there mind was just trying to use a tragic event as an excuse to condone pot smoking.

      what happens in Iraq?

      They call them HONOR KILLINGS, what I mean is they kill people of there own race because they go against ALA and if any body complains about it there next.

      GET IT?

      That is the road we are headed down, if you do different things it’s ok if you die.

      The fact is people die over there because of lifestyle choices, the same as here, and allot of people don’t care.

      Another side to this is this, “government control”

      It’s an old trick, the nazis burned books.

      Misinformation does the same thing “don’t let the public have control of the drugs they take”

      Also find a common enemy to unite the masses, this is a system used time and time again by governments, once you have them following the leader and trusting in the leaders wisdom, the leader can make them do what ever it wants to.

    14. mike says:

      I am one of the 20,000,000 and its pitiful that the government cant see the use of this wonderful flower. Well, they see it but it lines the pockets of politicians and law makers to keep putting non violent offenders like myself in prison. Now that im a felon i cant even vote for the future of the country i have to live in because they wont let me leave. Wheres the justice in that??????????????????????

    15. Shane says:

      It is easy to prove pot prohibitionist hypocrites.

      They say that they are protecting people from them selves and keeping them safe, they also indicate that they are axially saving lives.

      It’s simple, to use true logic one must ask the question is pot harmful.

      then the answers must be weighed with other answers to questions, for example, is having sex harmful?

      Smoking pot deaths in the world = 0
      unplanned parenthood abortions/deaths in the world = 1 every second.

      I wonder how many lives and broken families could be saved if all that revenue were channeled into programs that encouraged reasonable sexual behavior.

      The true answer to our problems is simple, if there was not so much tragedy in our lives we would not look for ways to escape it’s horror. And to try and abolish the escape method rather than fix the true problems only proves the ignorance of our politicians.

    16. Jerry says:

      Well, it could be worse, we could be spending billions of dollars on another pointless war.Oh wait that happened too. Its sad the ways they think to waste our money on stuff we really dont care about. Cant wait for the day for both of these wasteful ‘wars’ are finally over.

    17. Eric says:

      What is the point in voting? 200 years of voting has only given us the income tax, the federal reserve, warrantless spying on citizens, and oh yes- federal bans on recreational drug use. Said bans are ILLEGAL under the 9th and 10th amendments to the US Constitution.

      Why vote? The federal government is going to do what it wants anyway, and it obviously doesn’t care if 20,000,000 people have their lives ruined for nothing.

      I hate “my” government!

    18. soniq420 says:

      Plenty of downloadable posters on this site…

      http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=6686

    19. Anonymous says:

      WoW the law of atraction. I was having a discussion with one of these close minded people we are all speeking of. the “debate” came to a close with the one and only one harmfull reason to not smoke in moderation. This reason is The LAW, getting BUSTED! I have been smoking for over eight years with out a problem. Two days after this conversation I found my self in hand cuffs. 350 miles away frome where the anchor took place I was arested with a joint. I come to the Norml web site as a filmilar place to find some help and advice. First thing I find is 20,000,000 On october 10 2008.
      I was aressted October 10 2008 at 11:00 pm.
      wow law of attraction or not? On another note I must say 20,000,000 is a horrible number. but I feel that in all those people and many many more of us “criminals” there is a bond that Our closed minded neighbors will never experience without this amazing PLANT.

    20. SHAUNA MOODY says:

      YOU ARE ALL RIGHT!!!!!! SMOKING WEED SHOULD BE LEGAL. I HAVE ALOT OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY THAT HAVE BEEN TO JAIL BECAUSE OF JUST A BOWL OR JOINT AND THEN THEY (COPS) GO TO ANOTHER TOWN AND FIND THERE HAS BEEN OLD MEN MESSING WITH LITTLE KIDS FOREVER. BUT THEY ARE TO WORRIED ABOUT WHO IS SMOKING THAT THEY DIDN’T SEE WHAT WAS AROUND THE CORNER. THEY NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER AND NOT THINGS THAT GROW FROM THE GROUND THAT GOD PUT HERE.

    21. bubblegumbutt says:

      ..major nonsense. So,i’m dropping my dreadlock rasta black friend off after work. Too bad I’s a white guy that day;I was busted by a couple of black deputies as I was leaving the Historical ghetto called “Dixie” here in lovely Dothan. Turning left, I failed to signal after stopping in the middle of an intersection (I thought it was a four-way). The deputy asked as I stood there shaking what my bulging pocket contained-he said he thought a gun. I told him it was my phone, as it was, he asked to remove it and i said “you can take out my phone, ” Well he very slickly reached just a little deeper and removed my 3 grams of cannabis (in its sack) with the phone. That was 4 months, 3 jobs, about 2000 dollars, ago. I paid all my fines(I feel cheated)I do not drive as my license has been suspended-I bike everywhere. I have passed all but one of my CRO drug tests as I have quit smoking the fine stuff. I am about 1/3 of the way through the Group”therapy”(I call it gropeTHEYRAPEME. How can I get out of this stupid group and just get on with my life in California, Colorado, or Massachusetts, or New Mexico? I need weed for inspiration, not just for aches. But i sure can’t enjoy it with the preoccupations that the laws cause. I also have a vertebral column that resembles a train-wreck. I don’t want to get hooked on opiate pain-killers. Is this an upward battle or what?

      thanks for the eyes,
      please reply

    22. chris says:

      you know thats almost 4 times the amount of the jews killed in the holocaust

    23. […] a few of the institutional costs of this prohibition. The human costs, the personal costs to the 20-million Americans who have been arrested on marijuana charges, those costs are so high they are near impossible to calculate. Adding to that carnage, America’s […]

    24. MIKE STROUP says:

      WHO DO YOU WANT TO DECIDE WHAT DRUGS YOU MUST TAKE? WHEN ASKED THIS QUESTION, MOST PEOPLE REALIZE THE OBVIOUS ANSWER, THEY JUST DON’T GRASP THE IMPLICATIONS. WHEN ASKED, WHO DO YOU WANT TO DECIDE FOR YOU WHAT DRUGS YOU CAN NOT TAKE?, MANY JUST GET CONFUSED AND ANNOYED AS THEY USUALLY HAVE FULL, LEGAL ACCESS TO THEIR RECREATIONAL AND MEDICINAL DRUGS OF CHOICE. CANNABIS PROHABITION IS SIMPLY PART OF AN EVER INCREASING BODY OF LAW WRITTEN TO MAKE SURE VIRTUALLY EVERYONE IS CRIMINALIZED. THAT WAY, AS IN ALL SUCCESSFUL POLICE STATES, ANYONE’S PRIVACY CAN BE VIOLATED, THEIR HOME CAN BE INVADED BY ARMED THUGS, THEY CAN BE IMPRISONED, INJURED OR KILLED AND THEIR PROPERTY DISTROYED AND STOLEN, ALL COMPLETELY WITHIN THE LAW. ALL THIS AT THE WHIM OF THOSE IN AUTHORITY SEEKING TO IMPOSE THEIR WILL ON OTHERS, IN DIRECT VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION AND BILL OF RIGHTS. “GOOD” CITIZENS ARE ONLY SPARED IF THEY CONTINUE TO BE “GOOD” SLAVES TO THE RELIGIOUS-INSPIRED, MORAL, POLITICAL AND MONIED POWER ELITE WHICH OWN AND RUN THIS NATION. ALL LAWS WHICH VIOLATE A CITIZEN’S RIGHT TO FREELY CHOOSE THAT WHICH DOES NOT VIOLATE THE RIGHTFUL FREEDOMS AND LIBERTIES OF OTHERS EXIST TO ENHANCE AND PERPETUATE THE POLICE STATE. WHAT I DO WITH MY CONSENTING WIFE IN THE PRIVACY OF OUR BEDROOM IS NONE OF THE GOVERNMENT’S BUSINESS, LAWS TO THE CONTRARY BE DAMNED! SO MUCH FOR THE “OBEY BECAUSE IT IS THE LAW” CROUD. YES, I AM A CRIMINAL AND I’VE NEVER EVEN MET ANYONE WHO DID NOT VIOLATE AT LEAST SEVERAL LAWS, USUALLY EVERY DAY. BUT I NEVER VIOLATE ANYONE ELSE’S RIGHTFUL LIBERTIES AND FREEDOMS AND FULLY RESPECT THEIR PERSON AND PROPERTY. THE FACT THAT WE LIVE IN A NATION POPULATED EXCLUSIVELY BY CRIMINALS SHOULD NOT BE SURPRISING, THAT IS THE WAY IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE BY DESIGN. MOST PEOPLE ARE CONTENT WITH ONLY AN ILLUSION OF FREEDOM AND LIBERTY, AND THEREFORE DESERVE THEIR SLAVERY. MOST ARE CONTINUALLY INDOCTRINATED SO THEY ACTUALLY BELIEVE THEY LIKE IT. I KNOW EXACTLY WHO THE 20-MILLIONTH CITIZEN WILL BE ARRESTED FOR DARING TO MAKE A PERSONAL DECISION PERTAINING TO HIS OWN LIFE THAT IS NONE OF ANYONE ELSES BUSINESS. THE 20-MILLIONTH CITIZEN ARRESTED FOR CANNABIS WILL BE A TRUE AMERICAN PATRIOT.

    25. dd says:

      pot smokers are not criminals

    26. […] arrest occurring every 38 seconds (872,000 annual cannabis arrests; 90% for possession only), 20 million arrests since 1965, approximately 85,000 cannabis-only incarcerations that costs taxpayers tens of […]

    27. […] of Government, I’m going to ask that we direct our attention to our prisons. According to NORML the United States has arrested and imprisoned twenty million people since 1937 for marijuana, as of […]

    28. […] for vengeance. For far too long our people have been intimidated, harassed, threatened, assaulted, imprisoned, and killed for our interaction with a plant. Far too many homes have been burst into by armor-clad […]

    29. […] gin, tequila, and vodka, nobody breaks down your door, shoots your dogs, takes away your children, locks you in a cage, fires you from my job, requires you to pee in a cup, and charges you with a crime that, once […]

    30. Totally agree with MIKE STROUP, but why typing in the upper case? =__=

    31. hempinth fields says:

      where is obama?

    32. deva says:

      I would like to know the number of those arrests that resulted in a felony charge. further more, i wonder what the political stance of those felons are. I wouldn’t doubt that a large number of them are liberal, and now, thanks to mindless laws against drugs, we’ve potentially lost 200000000 democratic votes. In reality drugs should be viewed as a health issue. It affects us all, for better or for worse, and health care needs to be made universal so that preventative measures are implemented with priority. Science needs to be given more credit; faith alone is filling up our privatized prisons with cheap american labor. it’s criminal of the system to convict such a huge part of our society over nothing, really.

    33. […] In the decade that I’ve been on NORML’s board, I’ve worked with scores of bright, accomplished and passionate advocates for ending America’s 74-years of marijuana prohibition. Like never before, these voices are building into a chorus calling for the end of this cruel prohibition, whose penalties are suffered most by the poor, the young and people of color. This disastrous prohibition has led to the arrest of over 22 million Americans on marijuana charges since 1965. […]

    34. […] In the decade that I’ve been on NORML’s board, I’ve worked with scores of bright, accomplished and passionate advocates for ending America’s 74-years of marijuana prohibition. Like never before, these voices are building into a chorus calling for the end of this cruel prohibition, whose penalties are suffered most by the poor, the young and people of color. This disastrous prohibition has led to the arrest of over 22 million Americans on marijuana charges since 1965. […]

    35. […] In the decade that I’ve been on NORML’s board, I’ve worked with scores of bright, accomplished and passionate advocates for ending America’s 74-years of marijuana prohibition. Like never before, these voices are building into a chorus calling for the end of this cruel prohibition, whose penalties are suffered most by the poor, the young and people of color. This disastrous prohibition has led to the arrest of over 22 million Americans on marijuana charges since 1965. […]

    36. […] In the decade that I’ve been on NORML’s board, I’ve worked with scores of bright, accomplished and passionate advocates for ending America’s 74-years of marijuana prohibition. Like never before, these voices are building into a chorus calling for the end of this cruel prohibition, whose penalties are suffered most by the poor, the young and people of color. This disastrous prohibition has led to the arrest of over 22 million Americans on marijuana charges since 1965. […]

    37. […] In the decade that I’ve been on NORML’s board, I’ve worked with scores of bright, accomplished and passionate advocates for ending America’s 74-years of marijuana prohibition. Like never before, these voices are building into a chorus calling for the end of this cruel prohibition, whose penalties are suffered most by the poor, the young and people of color. This disastrous prohibition has led to thearrest of over 22 million Americans on marijuana charges since 1965. […]

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