HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 872,721 Pot Arrests, an
Pubdate: Tue, 16 Sep 2008
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2008 Independent Media Institute
Author: Paul Armentano
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


Cannabis Arrests Now Comprise Nearly 47.5 Percent of All Drug Arrests 
in the United States, 89% of Them for Mere Possession.

If denial is the first sign of addiction, then Drug Czar John Walters 
is hooked to the gills. He's addicted to targeting and arresting 
marijuana consumers, and he'll do and say anything to keep this 
irrational and punitive policy in place.

Speaking earlier this month on C-Span, the reigning Czar stretched 
his usual deceit to outrageous new heights. Responding to a question 
from the Marijuana Policy Project's Dan Bernath, Walters flatly 
denied the charge that over 800,000 Americans are arrested annually 
for violating pot laws.

"We didn't arrest 800,000 marijuana users," Walters proclaimed. 
"That's [a] lie."

If only it were.

According to data released yesterday in the FBI's annual Uniform 
Crime Report, police in 2007 arrested over 872,000 US citizens - 
that's nearly one out of every two Americans busted for illicit drugs 
- -- for weed. (The raw data is available from the US Federal Bureau of 
Investigation here 
and here. ) That 
figure is a five percent increase over the total number of Americans 
busted in 2006. It's more than three times the number of citizens 
charged with pot violations sixteen years ago.

Of those arrested in 2007, 89 percent - some 775,000 Americans -- 
were charged with simple pot possession, not trafficking, 
cultivation, or sale. (By comparison, 27 percent of those arrested 
for heroin and cocaine offenses were charged with sales.) Three out 
of four were under age 30; one in four were 18-years-old or younger.

The FBI's tally is the highest marijuana arrest total ever-reported 
in law enforcement history. If this pace continues, annual arrests 
for pot will surpass one million per year by 2010.

But to hear America's top drug cop tell it few, if any, citizens are 
ever arrested for pot possession, and absolutely no one goes to jail 
for breaking marijuana laws.

"The fact is today, people don't go to jail for the possession of 
marijuana," Walters alleged on C-Span. "Finding somebody in jail or 
prison for possession of marijuana is like finding a unicorn. It 
doesn't exist."

Not true says the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice 
Statistics, which reported last year in black and white -- perhaps 
the Drug Czar is reading impaired - that 12.7 percent of state 
inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug 
abuse violations are serving time for marijuana offenses. Combining 
these percentages with separate U.S. Department of Justice statistics 
on the total number of state and federal drug prisoners suggests 
that, at a minimum, there are now about 33,655 state inmates and 
10,785 federal inmates behind bars for marijuana offenses. (The 
report failed to include estimates on the percentage of inmates 
incarcerated in county or local jails for pot-related offenses, nor 
did it take into account the number of inmates serving time for 
violating the terms of their marijuana-related probation, such as 
those who submitted a 'dirty' urine to their parole officer.)

No matter how one slices it, that's a lot of unicorns.

It also begs the question: Why does the Drug Czar feel the need to go 
to such absurd lengths to hide this overt outgrowth of American drug 
policy? After all, the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the 
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy typically issue 
chest-thumping press releases when they achieve record busts for 
offenses involving cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine? Why then do 
they shy away from making similar proclamations for pot?

Perhaps it's because, deep down, even the Drug Czar knows that the 
use of cannabis does not pose anywhere near the health and safety 
threat as does the use of other intoxicants, including alcohol, and 
that most Americans - rightly - would be outraged to learn that our 
nation's so-called war on drugs is really just an assault on young 
adults caught with small bags of weed.
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