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Legalization pushes marijuana arrest rates to lowest level since 1998

The arrest rate has dropped 18 percent under Obama.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Marijuana arrests have reached their lowest point in nearly two decades thanks to a more friendly legal and political climate for the drug, according to the FBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report.

About 693,482 people were arrested for growing, selling, or possessing pot in 2013, down from 749,825 in 2012, a 7.5 percent decline and the lowest number since 1998.

Last year marked the first that Colorado and Washington legalized the drug, a trend that was followed this past election day when Washington, D.C., Alaska, and Oregon followed suit. Over 17.5 million Americans will be able to smoke the drug legally by this time next year—at least as far as state governments are concerned. Marijuana is still banned under federal law.

The country’s Midwest region saw the highest rate of arrest while the West Coast boasts by far the lowest.

Outside of marijuana, however, the highest number of arrests in 2013 was for drug abuse violations, with over 1.5 million arrests made out of over 11 million arrests nationwide.

Within the next year, total marijuana arrests will reach 25 million since President Richard Nixon launched the War on Drugs in 1971, according to High Times. However, the marked decline in arrests rates is a four-year trend that has seen an 18 percent decline in annual marijuana arrest total under President Obama.

The number is set to get even lower this year. Oregon, which will officially legalize weed on July 1 of next year, is dismissing all marijuana cases and of course won’t prosecute future ones.

Graph via Pew Research

After decades of low support during the height of the War on Drugs, Americans’ support for full marijuana legalization broke the 50-percent mark several years ago and continues to grow to this day.

H/T High Times | Illustration by Max Fleishman

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