Marijuana arrests eclipse all violent crimes combined, report says
Perhaps the United States is not all that close to legalizing marijuana after all.
According to a Washington Post report, more Americans were arrested for marijuana in 2016 than for all violent crimes combined.
An analysis from FBI crime data showed 587,700 arrests for marijuana possession nationally, which is more than the combined total of arrests for all crimes the FBI includes in the violent crimes category, including murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, some cases of arson and aggravated assault.
Pittsburgh attorney Patrick Nightingale, executive director of the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society, was disturbed by the statistics.
“It is unconscionable that victims of murder, assault, rape, burglary and robbery go without justice while law enforcement spends limited resources on arresting nonviolent possessors of plant material,” he told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday. “Here in Pennsylvania and despite recent decriminalization progress in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, over 19,000 Pennsylvanians are charged with simple possession of cannabis. Each case requires a crime lab to test the cannabis, which necessarily results in rape kits and other critical forensic testing being delayed or, in some cases, forgotten.”
Meanwhile, Americans are smoking pot in record numbers, or at least admitting they are, according to a 2016 Gallup poll.
The poll found the percentage of American adults who admitted to smoking marijuana has nearly doubled in three years. In 2013, only 7 percent of adults said they were marijuana smokers. Last month, 13 percent of those polled said they smoke pot.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in 2016 signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana, and the program is supposed to be fully operational by spring.
Additionally, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said this month that he believes legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana could help cure the state's budget woes.
“The longer we wait, the more other states are going to beat us to the punch,” he told the Tribune-Review recently. “I know it will take a couple years, but the longer we wait the more revenue we lose.”
A CBS News poll shows national support for legalizing marijuana is strong.
Sixty-one percent of Americans think marijuana use should be legal , a five-point increase from last year and the highest percentage ever recorded in this poll. Eighty-eight percent favor medical marijuana use.
Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.