Report: Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests Skyrocketing in California

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Doubling Up
It's a fine time to be a criminal in California. Arrests in every category of crime are down -- way down: Arrests for rape, murder, and theft have all decreased by two-thirds since 1990, according to a study published last week by the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Every crime except one, that is: Misdemeanor marijuana possession, which is why the study is aptly titled, "Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests are Skyrocketing."

Annual busts for simple possession, with no sales, transporting, or other penalty enhancements added, have doubled since 1990 to 54,800 arrests in 2010, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation statistics.

As usual, the vast majority of those incarcerated for simple possession are black, the study says. But in an interesting twist, they're not just black -- they're young and black, with over half of these busts involving teens.

These arrests were all made before Jan. 1, 2011, when a law that makes possession of less than an ounce an infraction punishable by a fine, with no court appearance required. To be completely unfair, marijuana possession comprised 8 percent of all drug busts in 1990, and 30 percent today.

It's probably safe to assume marijuana use has increased since 1990, as the drug itself has become much more prevalent since the state passed the nation's first medical marijuana laws in 1996. And without context or further details on each arrest, it's impossible to know if those busted were hauled in with a minuscule 2 grams or a saleable 2 pounds (though unless your District Attorney is, or was, Terrance Hallinan, the latter is almost certainly going to be charged as a felony).

It's worth mentioning that the Bay Area is largely a safe haven for victims of this cannabis crackdown. San Francisco and Contra Costa counties are among the places where a Californian is least likely to be imprisoned for a marijuana offense, according to a rundown of where the 1,224 Californians incarcerated for marijuana in 2010-2011 were sentenced. Still, a black person is 10 times more likely to be put behind bars for pot than a white person.

This trend appears not to be isolated, and in fact, it is much more prevalent in other places: In New York City, where marijuana was decriminalized way back in 1977, police arrested 50,000 people for simple possession, according to reports, or about as many arrests in the entire state of California.

SF Weekly attempted to contact a representative from the California Narcotics Officers Association to explain the huge surge in pot busts. A receptionist at the CNOA's Southern California headquarters informed us that no one was available to comment. Turns out they're all in Reno for a conference, and won't be back until next week.

So we turned to Mike Males, the senior research fellow at the CJCJ who authored the study.

"This is simply the inevitable evolution of the War on Drugs," said Males, who notes that more people use marijuana than any other drug because it's the safest. He also pointed out that the drug war focuses on them because that's where it can cause the most harm. "The War on Drugs is not intended to solve the drug problem -- it's intended to maxmize the harm drugs cause in society."

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Jannah
Jannah

I hope the newly taken oath police officers will stay away from such actions that will only make their profession nothing but a joke. We all are deserving of fair justice.

King R.
King R.

This is nothing but just a pure political scheme. Let's all support Ron Paul if you all want to see change for good. 

Justin Hayes Yates
Justin Hayes Yates

This just disgusts me, I am so tired of the bullshit that cops spew out everywhere. That the Government spews out everywhere. The people have the power, why don't we all stand up and say FUCK YOU!

Randy Anderson
Randy Anderson

One cannot seriously call "doubling" over two decades SKYROCKETING, so thanks for the needlessly and inaccurately inflammatory headline. Still, I find it unconscionable that anyone still gets busted for possession. It's just entirely wrong!!!

Connie Johnson
Connie Johnson

Oppression of the free. Move over Syria & China, the US government is moving in your direction.

Scott love
Scott love

The Cowards aren't going to try and bust these nasty, terrible Meth freaks. They are too much of a danger and safety hazard to the police. It's all about the Piggy's safety and making money. These heroic, well funded, tough guys might get hurt and don't make any money from busting Meth Freaks. I recently got busted riding my bicycle home from the bars after drinking, like I have for 11 years, here in Chico. Hauled down to the County jail, tested, incarcerated, which created plenty of good paperwork to keep the Butt County Judicial System humming and well employed. It's the way the Pigs are making up for budget cuts from the General Fund, now they just TAKE IT directly from the citizens. The judges are in their pockets and get a cut of the 'Bust Money', even though it's a loss of revenue and not cost effective for the Tax Payers as a whole, who have to pay for it all.

Anthony A Barker
Anthony A Barker

Exactly Sam Surdi!! Everyone should google patent #6630507! How does the government explain that??

Aviaryrm
Aviaryrm

In response to Rich Pea Has that "Man In Charge" done one thing he stated in campaigning in regards to Medical Marijuana?

Cameron
Cameron

"So... why is pot bad?""Because it's illegal."Astounding.

Rich Pea
Rich Pea

But that's how we roll here in the land of the free. =)

Aviaryrm
Aviaryrm

Most arrest are made in the "minorities" "whites often aren't arrested" step back and look at that......White Supremacy is in control?

Rich Pea
Rich Pea

..with a black president? gotta be hard to stomach that one.. =b

Flagdecal
Flagdecal

Midemeanor busts?  A cash cow.  County jails get $100-$200 per day from the Fed to house inmates.  That's the same price range of a beach front hotel room in Florida.  On the hotel room, the county only gets a small amount in taxes, maybe $30.00.  No problems?  Create some, and profit thereby.  But as the old man said, you can't stop progress.  Some day, we'll be dancing on top of the old paradigm.

Roscoe Biggs
Roscoe Biggs

every smoker in Ca should turn themselves in with just a small amount on the same day therefore clogging the courts for years to come. they would have no choice but to refuse to arrest and cite,setting a precedent. 

Roncowser
Roncowser

ive been saying that for years if all the smokers out there would take the hit on a minor charge they would make a huge differance hee if even a third would

pfroehlich2004
pfroehlich2004

Christ. More lazy journalism from some hack who can't even be bothered to spend 5 minutes Googling.

Arrests for rape, murder, and theft have declined dramatically because there has been a massive drop in the number of offenses committed! According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, between 1990 and 2009, California experienced the following: a 44% in the forcible rape rate, a 55% decline in the murder/non-negligent homicide rate, and a 48% decline in the larceny-theft rate. Oh, and robbery was down 54% to boot.

Data available here: http://www.ucrdatatool.gov/Sea...

"It's probably safe to assume marijuana use has increased since 1990, as the drug itself has become much more prevalent since the state passed the nation's first medical marijuana laws in 1996."

Why should we assume when we can simply CHECK THE DATA?? Annual use of marijuana has indeed increased since 1990 -but it's fallen since 1996, so uh, I guess pot hasn't really become more prevalent since passage of Prop 215 has it?

Data: http://monitoringthefuture.org...

Dvdnlal
Dvdnlal

Did I read that right?

The Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice believes "The War on Drugs is not intended to solve the drug problem --it's intended to maximize the harm drugs cause in society." 

That does completely explain the increase in arrests-- Because it's the ARRESTS that actually cause the most harm to society.

But they will never admit to this because they're too busy trying to convince us (and themselves) they haven't really lost the war because they were never trying to solve the drug problem in the first place. 

Incredibly they are so preoccupied in saving face as to put forward that they focus on these particular arrests to inflict the most harm yet fail to see that no harm whatsoever comes to drugs--only society.

Fighting for Justice for All
Fighting for Justice for All

Crime rates have been continuously going down for decades, and crime rates are at an all time low since 1966, according to FBI's Uniform Crime Reports. The rate of over-incarceration is because of the President Nixon's and President Reagan's "war on drugs" and mandatory sentencing laws, not because there are more criminals. Read this article on our dysfunctional criminal justice system and how we, the taxpayers, are paying the burden of overcrowded prisons that have little to do with evidenced-based criminology and criminal justice policy and more to do with political sensationalist campaigns. http://www.prweb.com/releases/...

brian sheller
brian sheller

What if it were the case that these other crimes went down as a result of this marijuana enforcement? If enough of these teens happen to be involved in furthering the criminal enterprise of Californian gangs and they're being arrested in such large numbers relative to the past, I suppose it may be affecting some of these criminals' bottom lines.

Speaking of bottom lines, I'm thinking of another angle to it.It may be interesting to examine how much of the crime that has declined by two-thirds was gang related. If it was, could the decline in those types of violent crime be the result of gangs becoming American cartels, leaving behind less lucrative crimes.

Steven Rayborn
Steven Rayborn

So, instead of trying to get rid of meth labs, cocaine smugglers and heroin addicts, they are attempting to make the least harmful, least offensive drug which kills no person by use alone, as their effigy? Turning a blind eye to the worse drugs out there simply because cannabis is an easier target is a sure-fire sign that their priorities have warped and twisted from when the 'war on drugs' began. If they want the public to believe they are doing their intended job, then start getting rid of the real problems and high-profile cases instead of making such exorbitant amounts of arrests of the smallest issue just to make yourselves look good.

SmokeytheBear
SmokeytheBear

There in the cartels pockets clearly! There probably making tons of money secretley, maybe obama is pulling a Reagan? We all know the biggest drug dealer in the united states is the United States government they don't want us to smoke buds they are trying to get everyone to take there pills..... And they want crack, heroin, and meth out there cause if it wasnt' they wouldn't have jobs! 

Edd
Edd

It's they're...not there. For the first two and their for the 3rd.  Made your paragraph so hard to understand. 

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