Marijuana Arrests

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 10-10-11

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 10-10-11.

Question of the Week: How many people were arrested for marijuana last year?

Every September, the FBI releases its annual “Crime in the United States” report that counts arrests in the United States according to a number of categories, among them drugs.

This report doesn’t make marijuana arrests obvious. Instead, these numbers must be gleaned by computing them.

To do so, one starts by referencing Table 29 of Uniform Crime Report, which lists the estimated number of arrests by category. Note that drug arrests for 2010 equaled 1,638,846. Those for reported categories like disorderly conduct, fraud and burglary equaled about 615,000, 189,000 and 290,000 each.

Then, to compute arrests for marijuana, the separate parent webpage to Table 29 must be referenced. The “Download Arrest Table Excel” link on this page goes to a spreadsheet version of the “Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations Percent Distribution by Region, 2010” table at the bottom of the page. Here you will find percentages for total arrests by substance positioned against these percentages by region.

Marijuana arrests must be computed by multiplying the percentages for possession and for Sale/manufacturing times that aforementioned total number of drug arrests for 2010.

Doing the math, at 6.3% of total drug arrests, there were about 103,000 Americans arrested for selling or manufacturing marijuana in 2010. At 45.8% of total drug arrests, there about 751,000 Americans arrested for merely possessing marijuana in 2010. Together, arrests for both selling and possessing marijuana added to a total of 854,000 arrests in 2010.

Sound complicated? Probably so for numbers of that magnitude.

These facts and others like them can be found in the tables at the bottom of the Marijuana chapter of Drug War Facts at