Do people still get arrested and punished for using marijuana?


Believe it or not, despite the marijuana law reforms in several states, there are still more arrests for marijuana possession every year than for all violent crimes combined.

The Stats

  • According to the FBI, 650,000 people were arrested for marijuana law violations in 2015 – comprising almost half (40%) of all drug arrests in the U.S. That’s one marijuana arrest every 50 seconds!
  • 89% of arrests were for simple possession, not for selling or manufacturing.
  • U.S. states spend more than $3 billion enforcing marijuana prohibition every year.

Marijuana Laws & Race

Sadly, these arrests are largely based on racial prejudice and politics. The first anti-marijuana laws during the 1910s and 20s, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans. Artists and performers – especially black jazz musicians – were also common targets.

Today, Latino and black communities are still subject to wildly disproportionate marijuana enforcement practices, despite the fact that these groups are no more likely than white people to use or sell marijuana.

These arrests can create permanent criminal records that can easily be found on the internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies and banks. And it can result in loss of employment, financial aid, housing and child custody. In many U.S. states, a marijuana possession arrest can still lead to months or even years behind bars. Clearly, a marijuana arrest is no small matter.


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People deserve accurate, non-judgmental information about marijuana and other drugs

In order to stay safe, we need to understand both the effects of drugs and the policies that surround them.

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Shelley's Story

Marijuana: The Facts

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) supports information and polices related to marijuana that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. Safety is our top priority, especially when it comes to young people.
This booklet provides brief answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions about marijuana. We hope it will help you better understand this plant and its effects.