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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. STEVEN A GIBSON says:

      Of course it is….They want the young people to be slaves in their prisons. its all about the money. I realy think the young are getten tired of all the bull crap. it want be long. and we will have all the cops working in our prisons insted. All its going to take is a little more pushing. before the young push back. mark my words. If Ron is not elected its going to happen.

    2. Matt says:

      It’s shameful that the Justice Department can look at this data and turn the other way. Greed will never rest.

    3. resonance says:

      “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.”

      Does this study account for the rise in total population in general between the 1960’s and today? or how many adolescents are actual users of marijuana? Im not following where they are drawing their conclusion on how the war on pot= war on the youth of america?

      I am a staunch supporter of legalizing marijuana even though I don’t smoke myself, but I find that this article/study doesn’t take into account alot of different variables that make this study biased. More research and data needs to be collected before people can find this a valid conclusion.

      [Paul Armentano responds: The study assesses the percentage of young people arrested, not the total number of young people, so the ‘rise in total population’ is irrelevant.]

    4. adam says:

      this is because they want to cripple our youth before they have a chance to succeed. they want to use every arrest and every find as a definate see this is our point its destroying our nation excuse. it is the lack of acceptance of research and knowledge and that is the crime. the fact that the nixon administration had studies that showed marijuana should be legal and theres no reason to not have it be. we will always have a economy needing to be bailed out if we do not legalize and tax for medical and recreational uses. it is no different than smoking a cigarette and does not intoxicate to the same degree as booze. the only way to kill with it is to crush with enough weight of it. the time has come legalize and stop useing marijuana as an excuse to tax and poverty strike our youth.

    5. mikey amor says:

      The constitution states we are to secure the blessing of liberty. Why are the stripping us of our rights like we are their slaves.

    6. JJ says:

      WAKE UP PEOPLE

      THEY ARREST US SO WE HAVE NO RIGHTS TO VOTE. THEY ARREST US SO THEY CAN SAY THAT PEOPLE NOT SMOKING CAN GO TO COLLEGE AND GET AN EDUCATION AND BECOME WHITE COLLAR. THIS IS ALL TO MAKE THE “PERFECT” SOCIETY.

      I SAY WE SPLIT THE COUNTRY IN HALF. ONE SIDE LIBERTARIAN…OTHER SIDE CHRISTIAN… IM TIRED OF HEARING THAT WE CANT HAVE A COUNTRY RAN BY NON CHRISTIANS BECAUSE WE HAVE NO MORALS AND VALUES. WHY CAN WE NOT RUN A COUNTRY ON THE MORAL OF GOOD/BAD.

      CANT WE GET PAST SEXUALITY, RACE, COUNTRY OF ORIGIN, SPIRITUALITY, OR ANYTHING THAT SPLITS US. WE DO NOT DESERVE TO LIVE ON THIS WORLD IF WE CARE MORE ABOUT MONEY AND NOT QUALITY OF EVERY LIFE.

      ALSO, #1…YOU are right. watch and see what happens when Ron Paul is screwed out of this election. He has popular vote and the media is using their “influence” to tell us Paul has no chance of winning so we dont “waste” a vote by voting for him. Hell, they even have Norml thinking he has no chance, didnt American people learn anything in history class with the “Dewey defeats Truman” event? Just do your part by telling people to vote. Their own feeling and choices will lead them to Ron Paul.

    7. Smoke n toke says:

      Well Obama,remember when you were up and coming. Getting high all those times and all you wanted was pot and peace? in school it sure was fun. And through all that there you are PRESIDENT! Now there’s the best example. No wonder the republicans want you out. The jig is up!

    8. Chuck says:

      They are not “blissfully unaware” by any stretch. They know exactly what their doing. It’s no secret that CBS higher-ups have been to the gidenberg meetings.

    9. Chuck says:

      Bilderberg….that is….so secret my comp keeps changing the name on spell check…hmmmmm

    10. Michael Hennigan says:

      You would think that facial recognition on facebook would be enough for law enforcement. But noooo, they want everybody fingerprinted and in the system somehow. An astonishing 33% arrested before 23 years old. Thats shameful, disgusting and way out of control. I wonder how much longer the American people will put up with this. Gov. Nixon’s son from Missouri was busted at a pot party with pot on him…but “they” dismissed the charge. The elites must be stopped. But I would settle for cannabis legalization for now. We can legalize the constitution after the election!

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