The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205
Jon Gettman 540-822-5739

Most Exhaustive Set of Marijuana Arrest Data Ever Shows No Relation Between Arrests and Use Rates; Penalty Structure Boosts Illicit Market

Florida Has Toughest Penalties, Arrest Rate Highest in D.C, Black Arrest Rate 3 Times That of Whites


most exhaustive collection of data ever on U.S. marijuana arrests,
penalties and related information, released today, finds no
relationship between marijuana arrest and use rates, while penalty
structures act as a price support mechanism that boosts the illegal
market. Assembled by Jon Gettman, Adjunct Assistant Professor in Criminal Justice at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, the new report finds:

  • Marijuana arrests have nearly doubled since 1991, while levels of marijuana use remained fundamentally unchanged.
  • Penalties
    that escalate for increased amounts of marijuana encourage consumers to
    make multiple small purchases, acting as a price support for the
    illicit market.
  • Florida
    has the nation's harshest marijuana penalties, while the District of
    Columbia has the highest arrest rate for marijuana offenses.
  • Although
    the rate of marijuana use is only about 25 percent higher for
    African-Americans than for whites, blacks are three times as likely to
    be arrested for marijuana possession as whites.

"These figures paint
a devastating portrait of a failed policy that burns through tax
dollars while doing nothing but harm," said Rob Kampia, executive
director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "Most
Americans agree that marijuana prohibition doesn't work, even if most
politicians aren't yet ready to publicly agree with their constituents."

Gettman's summary report, "Marijuana Arrests in the United States (2007)," is available at
The full Marijuana Policy Almanac, including state rankings and
individual reports for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, is

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the number one organization in the U.S. legalizing cannabis. We passed 13 medical cannabis laws in the past 15 years, and we ran winning campaigns in eight of the 11 legalization states. No organization in the movement has changed as many cannabis laws, impacted as many patients and consumers, created as many new markets, or done more to end cannabis prohibition in the U.S. than MPP.