FBI Figures: One Drug Bust In US Every 18 Seconds
By Stephen C. Webster
America is a nation at war, overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at home.
According to the newly released Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Report for 2008 every 18 seconds someone is arrested and charged with violating drug laws.
Another striking figure in the report: of the 1,702,537 drug arrests in 2008, 82.3 percent were for simple possession of a contraband substance. Nearly half, 44 percent, were for possession of marijuana.
According to San Francisco Weekly’s calculations, 2008 saw one marijuana arrest every 37 seconds.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said 2008 had the second-highest number of marijuana arrests the U.S. has ever seen. The group said that 2007 currently holds the record.
“Federal statistics released just last week indicate that larger percentages of Americans are using cannabis at the same time that police are arresting a near-record number of Americans for pot-related offenses,” said NORML Director Allen St. Pierre in a media advisory. “Present enforcement policies are costing American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of
Americans, and having no impact on marijuana availability or marijuana use in this country. It is time to end this failed policy and replace prohibition with a policy of marijuana regulation, taxation, and education.”
“In our current economic climate, we simply cannot afford to keep arresting more than three people every minute in the failed ‘war on drugs,'” Jack Cole, a former drug officer who oversees the activist group who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), said in a press release. “Plus, if we legalized and taxed drug sales, we could actually create new revenue in addition to the money we’d save from ending the cruel policy of arresting users.”
The report noted that the figures are a slight dip from 2007, going from 1.8 million to 1.7 million.
“Those looking for a partisan pattern should note that drug arrests climbed under Bill Clinton as well as George W. Bush, and that last year’s drop occurred during the latter’s second term,” wrote Jacob Sullum at Reason.com. “Since local police make the vast majority of drug arrests (especially pot busts), it’s not clear how much difference the president’s drug policy agenda makes, although federal priorities affect the behavior of state and local law enforcement agencies, especially when funding is attached to them.”
The FBI also recorded a 1.9 percent drop in violent crime, and the smallest number of forcible rapes in the last two decades. The report additionally noted that 1.4 million arrests were made for drunk driving alone.
“Racial minorities suffered disproportionately as victims of some of the most violent crimes,” added CNN. “Almost half of the country’s 14,000 murder victims, for example, were African-American.”
The Office of National Drug Control Policy had not commented on the FBI report at time of publication.