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.
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.
Marijuana prohibition has taken yet another innocent life. In January 2013, two- year-old Alexandra Hill was taken from her home in Round Rock, Texas because her parents had admitted to smoking pot after their child had gone to bed. As a result, she was placed with an abusive foster mother, who subsequently beat her to death.
According to her father, Joshua Hill, who spoke with KVUE, a local ABC affiliate, “She would come to visitation with bruises on her, and mold and mildew in her bag. It got to a point where [he] actually told CPS that they would have to have [him] arrested because [he] wouldn’t let her go back.” A few days later, the Hill family got a call informing them that their daughter was in a coma, and they needed to get to the hospital right away. Two days after that, Alex was taken off life support. Up until she was snatched from her family in January, the 2 year old had never been sick or gone to the hospital.
“When a parent who responsibly consumes marijuana after hours is seen as neglectful in comparison to a parent who responsibly enjoys a glass of wine, then the system isn’t just broken, it’s deadly,” said Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women’s Outreach at NORML. Little Alex’s fate was sealed the minute the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) determined that such behavior qualifies as “neglectful supervision,” and put her with a foster mother who had not been given a proper background check.
This is just one more tragic casualty of marijuana prohibition. However, the practice of child snatching by CPS from marijuana-using parents is by no means unique to this story. Current policy gives state agencies the right to legally kidnap minors and infants from their loving parents’ home (simply for the fact that they are cannabis consumers), and place them in an unknown, possibly dangerous or truly neglectful environment. Hundreds of similar CPS cases pop up around the country every year. Only when the government changes its view, and policies on marijuana can we truly protect the rights and integrity of good parents who responsibly consume cannabis after hours and out of their child’s view. It’s time for CPS, the state of Texas and the federal government to step up, take responsibility for all of the damage they have caused, and commit to ending this disastrous and fatal policy.
Over the last year or so I’ve read about and on occasion met with the newly minted ‘cannabis CEOs’ in America (men and women who’re at the vanguard of creating a sustainable cannabis industry in America post prohibition). Most of them talk in couched terms regarding what they ‘hope’ to see happen with a legal cannabis market in the US or issue over-the-top and breathless press releases that seek to attract investor attention.
However, Vice Magazine has produced a very fascinating and revealing short documentary featuring a real life cannabis industry CEO who walks the walk when it comes to not only taking substantive legal chances to further his businesses, but one who lives his life as-a-always-interested-stakeholder in the future of humans being able to access high quality cannabis products.
Having met Amsterdam’s Arjan Roskom of the famed Green House coffeeshops and seed company on a number of occasions previously, I was hardly surprised when Vice contacted me to review their documentary that Arjan was featured and had provided them an insider’s view of what it is like to be a genuine cannabis industry maverick.
The Vice documentary focuses on Arjan and his lead cultivator traveling to the deep jungles of Colombia to re-locate three famed sativa strains of cannabis historically cultivated in this region of South America.
Cannabis kudos to Vice and Arjan!