The FBI released their crime and arrest statistics for 2012 today and, despite the fact that a majority of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized, the total marijuana related arrests in the United States is largely unchanged year over year.
In 2012, marijuana arrests as a percentage of all drug arrests dipped very slightly from 49.5% in 2011 to 48.3% last year. This puts the total number of marijuana arrests at about 749,825 (compared to 757,969 arrests in 2011). 87% of these arrests were for possession only, meaning that about 658,231 Americans were forced into handcuffs last year for nothing more than simple possession. Another 91,593 were arrested for sale or manufacturing charges.
That means a marijuana consumer is arrested for possession every 48 seconds. In the time it took you to read this short blog post, another marijuana consumer was taken to jail. Meanwhile, the occurrences of violent crime ticked up to 1,214,462 reported incidents, an increase of 0.7% over 2011 totals.
You can view the FBI Crime Report for 2012 here.
Speaking today before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, Deputy Attorney General James Cole reaffirmed that the Justice Department is unlikely to challenge statewide marijuana legalization efforts, provided that these efforts impose “robust regulations” which discourage sales to minors and seek to prevent the diversion of cannabis to states that have not yet legalized its use.
“We will not … seek to preempt state ballot initiatives,” Cole told members of the Committee, adding that state “decriminalization [laws] can co-exist with federal [drug] laws.”
In an August 29 Department of Justice memorandum, Deputy Attorney General Cole previously directed the US Attorneys in all 50 states not to interfere with the implementation of state marijuana regulations, unless such activities specifically undermined eight explicit federal law enforcement priorities.
In response to a question from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cole also stated that federal prosecutors should utilize similar discretion and not interfere with the activities of state-compliant cannabis dispensaries, as long as their actions “are not violating any of the eight federal enforcement priorities” outlined here. Rhode Island is one of six states, as well as Washington, DC, that presently licenses the production and distribution of medical cannabis. Six additional states are expected to enact similar licensing regulations in the coming months.
Several Senators and witnesses questioned whether the Justice Department would consider amending federal financial regulations which presently inhibit state-compliant cannabis businesses from taking standardized tax deductions and partnering with conventional financial institutions. Deputy Attorney General Cole responded that such proposed changes in law were arguably the responsibility of Congressional lawmakers, not the Justice Department.
Commenting on the hearing, NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri said, “For the first time in modern history, members of the US Congress and the Justice Department were not discussing furthering cannabis prohibition, but instead were testifying to the merits of cannabis legalization and regulation.”
Today’s hearings marked the first time that members of Congress have explicitly weighed in on the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws since voters in Colorado and Washington elected to legalize the retail production and sale of the plant this past November. The hearing was called for by Senate Judiciary Chairmen Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who acknowledged that the federal government “must have a smarter approach to marijuana policy.” Witnesses at today’s hearing also included King County, Washington Sheriff John Urquhart — a vocal supporter of the state’s new legalization law — and Jack Finlaw, Chief Legal Council for the Colorado Governor’s Office.
Archived video of today’s US Senate Judiciary hearing is online here.
Today at 2:30pm eastern, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold their first ever hearings regarding marijuana legalization and the conflict it creates between state and federal law. The hearing will be held in the Hart Senate Office Building, Room 216. You can live stream the hearing here.
The hearing was scheduled by the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). “It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal,” Senator Leahy stated, “I believe that these state laws should be respected.”
In light of the recent Department of Justice memo, NORML believes these hearings can start a dialogue at the federal level that will pave the way for substantial reforms.
“Hopefully these hearings will be just the beginning of what will become a substantive conversation on how the federal government will handle states opting out of federal marijuana prohibition,” said NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “To ensure that the changes detailed in the recent Department of Justice memo are upheld, Congress must act to enshrine into law the ability for states to set their own policy when it comes to marijuana.”
Testifying at today’s hearing are Deputy Attorney General James Cole, King County Sheriff John Urquhart, Chief Legal Counsel to Colorado Governor Hickenlooper Jack Finlaw, and SAM founder Kevin Sabet.
In addition to viewing the hearing live online, please take a moment to contact your elected officials and urge them to support federal legislation to end marijuana prohibition. You can quickly and easily do so through NORML’s Take Action Center here. Check back here on the NORML Blog after the hearing for a summary of the proceedings.
DEA seizures of indoor and outdoor cannabis crops declined dramatically from 2011 to 2012 and are now at their lowest reported levels in nearly a decade, according to statistics released online by the federal anti-drug agency.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2012 Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, the total number of cannabis plants eradicated nationwide fell 42 percent between 2011 and 2012. This continues a trend, as DEA crop seizures previously fell 35 percent nationwide from 2010 to 2011.
In 2010, the DEA eliminated some 10.3 million cultivated pot plants. (This figure excludes the inclusion of feral hemp plants, tens of millions of which are also typically seized and destroyed by DEA agents annually, but are no longer categorized in their reporting.) By 2011, this total had dipped to 6.7 million. For 2012, the most recent year for which DEA data is available, the total fell to 3.9 million — the lowest annual tally in nearly a decade.
The declining national figures are largely a result of reduced plant seizures in California. Coinciding largely with the downsizing of, and then ultimately the disbanding of, the state’s nearly 30-year-old Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program, DEA-assisted marijuana seizures in the Golden State have fallen 73 percent since 2010 — from a near-record 7.4 million cultivated pot plants eradicated in 2010 to approximately 2 million in 2012. DEA-assisted cannabis eradication efforts have remained largely unchanged in other leading grow states during this same period.
The DEA’s 2012 Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report is available online here.
One of, if not the, highest profile election this year is the Virginia gubernatorial race. Things are beginning to heat up as we enter the final two month stretch before the election on November 5th and NORML thought it was worth looking at how the issue of marijuana law reform has come into play.
There are three candidates on the ballot vying for the position: Terry McAuliffe (Democrat), Ken Cuccinelli (Republican), and Robert Sarvis (Libertarian).
In an interview with a local FOX affiliate, Sarvis elaborated on his position, stating “I think these [marijuana] laws … are very expensive to enforce. They do a lot of damage to families and communities. They lead to high incarceration rates and unemployment rates when people can’t get jobs.”
You can read his drug policy platform here.Republican Ken Cuccinelli made some statements about marijuana policy early in the campaign, but has largely remained silent since the beginning of this year and has not answered specifics such as which measures, if any, he would support and sign into law.
Responding to a student question while speaking to a class at the University of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli said he was “evolving” on the marijuana issue.
“I don’t have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing I think that’s the role of states,” Cuccinelli stated, “I’m not sure about Virginia’s future [re: marijuana legalization], but I and a lot of people are watching Colorado and Washington to see how it plays out.”
“What I expressed to [the students] was an openness to observe how things work there, both in terms of the drug side and the economics. One issue that is often discussed is how the war on drugs itself has played out. Have we done this the right way? It’s been phenomenally expensive.”
Discussing the issue at a later event, Cuccinelli said that, “[If we are] going to put people in jail and spend $25,000 [to] $30,000 a year for a prison bed, do we want it to be for someone who’s pushing marijuana or pushing meth? I’ll tell you what, that $30,000 for the meth pusher is well worth the deal.”
He stated that “I’m ready to watch and learn. I’m not ready to do it [legalize marijuana] but I don’t want to just never ever say never to the possibility in the future.”
He clarified this isn’t an issue he expects to take up if he wins the election. “I don’t want you to think that I’m going to land in the governor’s office and sign a legalization bill. I don’t think you have to worry about it getting to the governor’s desk but it’s worth knowing what your candidate’s saying.”The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, has not issued any statements or formalized positions on marijuana law reform.
Join NORML in asking the candidates to clarify their positions when it comes to marijuana!
Click here to contact the McAuliffe campaign and here to contact the Cuccinelli campaign.
Below is a template letter you can send or personalize as you see fit:
“As a Virginia voter, I believe one of the most important issues facing our state is its failed war against marijuana. Before I decide which candidate to support this November, I’d like you to clarify your position on marijuana law reform.
Would you support legislation to allow for the medical use of cannabis and provide Virginia’s seriously ill patients with safe access to a medicine with fewer side effects and no risk of fatal overdose compared with conventional narcotic medications?
Would you support decriminalizing the possession of marijuana and halting the arrests of over 18,000 Virginians annually at the cost of 67 million dollars per year?
Would you consider supporting a regulated system for the adult use of marijuana, taking the profits away from criminal cartels, putting control in the hands of regulated businesses, and implementing age restrictions and regulations to decrease youth access?
This is an issue that is inversely impacting countless thousands of Virginians. It erodes our civil liberties and wastes over 67 million dollars a year to arrest non-violent cannabis consumers. I’d appreciate hearing your position on this important matter.”
@TerryMcAuliffe Would you support medical marijuana? Decrim? Legalization? You can help end 18k mj arrests per year and save $67mil annually
— NORML (@NORML) September 6, 2013
@KenCuccinelli Would you support medical marijuana? Decrim? Legalization? You can help end 18k mj arrests per year and save $67mil annually
— NORML (@NORML) September 6, 2013
Note: We are not including Libertarian Robert Sarvis as a target for these messages, as he already has formalized and publicized his marijuana policy position. If you wish to contact that campaign you can view his website here and Twitter page here.
You can get involved with marijuana law reform in the Commonwealth by following Virginia NORML here.