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Do The Math: The ‘War’ On Pot Is Largely A War Upon Young People

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 19, 2011

    A new study out today estimates that one-third of US young people will be arrested or taken into custody for illegal or delinquent offenses (excluding arrests for minor traffic violations) by the age of 23.

    CBS News/Web MD reports on the findings here:

    Study: Nearly 1 in 3 U.S. youths will be arrested by age 23

    Parents and non-parents alike might be shocked to learn a new study estimates that roughly 1 in 3 U.S. youths will be arrested for a non-traffic offense by age 23 – a “substantively higher” proportion than predicted in the 1960s.

    The study, posted online by the journal Pediatrics, shows that between about 25% to 41% of 23-year-olds have been arrested or taken into police custody at least once for a non-traffic offense. If you factor in missing cases, that percentage could lie between about 30% and 41%.

    What was learned was that the risk was greatest during late adolescence or emerging adulthood. The study also shows that by age 18, about 16% to 27% have been arrested.

    … The researchers base their conclusion on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, ages 8 to 23. Data analyzed in the new study came from national surveys of youth conducted annually from 1997 to 2008.

    Their finding contrasts with a 1965 study that predicted 22% of U.S. youths would be arrested for an offense other than a minor traffic violation by age 23.

    Why the Rise in Arrests?

    The researchers cite some “compelling reasons” for the increase.

    “The criminal justice system has clearly become more aggressive in dealing with offenders (particularly those who commit drug offenses and violent crimes) since the 1960s,” the authors, all criminologists, write. In addition, “there is some evidence that the transition from adolescence to adulthood has become a longer process.”

    From the 1920s through the 1960s, the proportion of the population that was incarcerated remained remarkably stable at about 100 inmates per 100,000 people, researcher Robert Brame, PhD, of the department of criminal justice and criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, tells WebMD. Today, Brame says, that figure has soared to 500 inmates per 100,000 people.

    While it is commendable that CBS is highlighting the findings of this troubling data, it’s frustrating that the network’s editors appear blissfully unaware
    of what is one of the most painfully obvious drivers of this surge in juvenile arrests: the ever-increasing enforcement of marijuana prohibition.

    As I stated from the stage at the 2008 NORML national conference, “It’s Not Your Parents’ Prohibition,” the so-called ‘war’ on pot is largely a criminal crackdown on young people.

    Young people, in many cases those under 18-years-of-age, disproportionately bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement.

    … According to a 2005 study commissioned by the NORML Foundation, 74 percent of all Americans busted for pot are under age 30, and 1 out of 4 are age 18 or younger. That’s nearly a quarter of a million teenagers arrested for marijuana violations each year.

    … [I]f we ever want the marijuana laws to change, that we as a community have to better represent the interests of young people, and we must do a better job speaking on their — and their parent’s — behalf.

    (Read my entire remarks here.)

    Since 1965, police have made an estimated 21.5 million arrests for marijuana-related offense, according to cumulative data published by the FBI. Some 8 million of these arrests have occurred since 2000.

    Assuming that nearly three out of four of those arrested in the past decade were under age 30, that equates to the arrest of some 6 million young people — including 2 million teenagers — for marijuana-related offenses since the year 2000.

    In short, marijuana prohibition isn’t protecting kids; its endangering them. We now have an entire generation that has been alienated to believe that the police and their civic leaders are instruments of their oppression rather than their protection.

    And the sad fact is: they’re right.

    So what are you going to do about it?

    69 Responses to “Do The Math: The ‘War’ On Pot Is Largely A War Upon Young People”

    1. maxweed says:

      To “The New Jim Crow (see above) you’ve added the New Stalinism– some vindictive local stalin (to Whom The Good Lord Gave the Gift of Phone(y) Loquacity) can “use” the prevailing social system against you or any individual rival or antagonist– read up on 30’s purges.

      Read Aesop’s fable about a stalinist dog who privatized a manger, or feedstall, all stuffed with hay, and forebade entry to sheep and goats seeking to eat the hay.

    2. jroll says:

      first and foremost..a lot of good points…call me crazy, but im on a mission to legalize mary ..what ever it takes. believe me when i say this…its about personal freedoms…i believe my video on utube displays this…check it out and pass it like a blunt..jroll84..colorful face…im not giving up…f the gov’t and their shady ways…

    3. erik says:

      I think in central jersey its more like 2 out of 3..

    4. Pay soe says:

      Can’t agree more about central jerz.. Middlesex county? Forget it.

    5. [...] Do The Math: The ‘War’ On Pot Is Largely A War Upon Young People [...]

    6. TC says:

      Hey. this article makes it sound as if only the young smoke and take any risk to do so.
      I think there are a lot of older americans fighting in the background than is given credit. smokeing pot regulary for over 40+ years,and have a very good job and happy family and grand kids. (Free the weed.)It’s our country not the goverments.

    7. Nancy Lee Garrett says:

      This is what I am afraid of. I have 3 young granddaughters. I am sure when they get older, one or more of them will eventually try pot. I am definitely afraid they may get caught, arrested and have their lives destroyed just because they smoked pot.

    8. lee says:

      So arrests have increased 500% as both the medical uses for cannabis have become well-known to the drug industry and prisons for profit hae become big business.

      Corruption puts the wants of the few above the needs of the many.

    9. Freedom says:

      I do not understand why NORML has not endorsed Ron Paul.

      [Editor's note: Beyond the fact it is largely illegal for non-profit organizations to endorse political candidates and parties (this is why DPA, DPA, ACLU, DRCNet, ASA, MPP, etc...also don't endorse political candidates), also, NORML is a non-partisan organization.]

    10. Young says:

      I may be stretching things when asking norml
      if in anyway they could help with this exact problem in Cottonwood, AZ yavapai county where they have thee most brutal law enforcement
      when i mean brutal i mean jurisdiction doesnt matter here so we have cottonwood cops,P.A.N.T , highway patrol, sedona cops,clarkale cops the list goes on its kinda ridiculous that kids and even adults who may need it or even use it for recreational have to be all cracked out and make sure that the cops aren’t on ther tails

    11. Breana says:

      So sad that the country keeps citing the reason for prohibition is to keep the kids safe, when all it’s doing is putting them in jail! It’s BS that we (parents) have to go bail out our kids for something that studys have shown is harmless. I would cram a hundred joints down my kids throat to keep them away from tobacco and alcohol, why aren’t they prohibited….no medicinal use, and both can be a tax on our soceity. tobacco=unpaid doctors, alcohol=unsafe drivers, marijuana=less trips to the doctors and the worlds slowest most obedient driver! I shake my head in saddness for the stupidity of our leaders. We as americans are very smart and know what is good for us. Our leaders give us a bad reputation with the rest of the world! They don’t listen to anything the people are asking for, and they just keep plucking our freedoms away….The land of the free is long forgotton. I don’t even say the pledge anymore because it’s stupid to pledge allegience to a country that doesn’t represent it’s people (or refuses to listen to the masses)

    12. Don says:

      @Breana – The only reason marijuana is illegal is because it helps to keep a lot of rich people rich; that certainly includes a lot of politicians! If the laws were simply based on right and wrong, as they should be, then you are absolutely right that marijuana should be legal and it is tobacco and alcohol that should be illegal (since they do far more harm than marijuana).

      America is definately NOT the Land of the Free! I hope I change my mind before I die but I tend to doubt that I will… At least not unless we actually get an honest group of people representing our nation (inhaling but not holding my breath).

    13. jeff says:

      One more reason to vote for RON PAUL for president.

      Support HR2306

    14. dbeall says:

      makes no sense that I can boil some veggie stew in my mile-high-distiller that I bought on the net,, shipped to my door by buster brown,, nice, stainless, boil my veggies, condense that steam and lets OD on some 200 proof home brew.. right at home, killed by my own brew. all legal beagle….

      But I can’t grow my own rope?? really?
      I can’t grow fiber to make fabric with? what will I wear?

      I think Ron Paul has my vote

      Ron Paul R3volution 2012

    15. jroadrunner says:

      X-cuse me,Butte Co.Ca. in oroville today,lifted our ban on dispensaries….FYI….thanks!

    16. Pamela says:

      Ive smoked pot a-lil every 4/5 years due to My Sobriety. Although, Ive been in an accident over 30 years now and I also believe everything the people speak of when it comes to killing the pain and drugs. Moderation Ha ! It works when you work it, KEEP THE FAITH !!!

    17. Samuel Childers says:

      I am planing to start a march on I-40,NC east coast and ending in CA with a RESOLUTION. I plan to keep the message simple “SAVE OUR COUNTRY!!!” I am not some hippie that wants to legally get high, i am truely worried about our country. If we can legalize it then the government will have way more income for more important things, and it will open up a whole new window of opertunities for the American people to live a healthier, more eco friendly life, full of new job opertunities. We WILL then be able to raise from this recession and have a huge increase in population that respects the government as it once did when this nation was founded. I believe that if everyone can come together for this event then this protest WILL work. The march will start on April 20th 2012!

    18. Judy Rayford says:

      We need to find a way to “cut this knot” that has use tied to this system. Courts have been tried and religion now rules there. People we are at a cross road

    19. Judy Rayford says:

      I have a case in Kaufman Texas where the trooper has a history of destroying people economically and socially with illegal traffic stops on March 5h, 2012,taking it to trial – trooper finds marijuana after subject is released. I am taking a stand, we all must too many are dying for no reason but for our failure to act

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