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Study: 240,000 in Washington State Arrested for Marijuana Possession in Past 25 Years


Over the past 25 years, an estimated 240,000 people in Washington state have been arrested for marijuana possession, according to a study by an advocacy group. The study was released as Washington voters are considering a measure on the November ballot to legalize and tax marijuana sales at state-sanctioned stores.

The Marijuana Arrest Research Project is based on data from the FBI, the Associated Press reports. It is a grant-funded group that researches marijuana arrest data for organizations that advocate drug policy reform, the article notes.

Study co-author Harry Levine, a sociologist at Queens College in New York, said that because of the way Washington’s data is reported to the FBI, it is not known how many of the 240,000 were also arrested for other charges. He said based on studies of other states that separate such data, the researchers conclude the overwhelming majority of arrests were for simple misdemeanor possession alone.

The report found that 79 percent of those arrested were age 34 or younger. “And the most serious complication of these arrests is not the night in jail but the criminal record that results,” he told the AP. These arrests can lead to problems renting an apartment or finding a job, he noted.

Most of those arrested were white, but minorities were arrested at a higher rate than whites based on their population.

The number of arrests for marijuana possession rose from 4,000 in 1986, to 11,000 in 2010, the report noted. The researchers estimate that the arrests cost Washington between $200 million and $300 million over the past decade.

The costs of the arrests, and the effects on those who are arrested, are two of the main reasons cited by supporters of the Washington measure, known as Initiative 502. Critics argue the measure would increase teens’ access to marijuana, although it would legalize the drug only for those over 21.

If the Washington measure passes, marijuana would remain illegal under federal law.

6 Responses to this article

  1. Gene / November 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    On the one given day in 2008 (when I’ve studied this) only 4 persons were jailed at the moment in Washington State on drug possession charges, none on cannabis possession.

  2. Douglas / October 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Gene pleas tell me where I can find that only a small percentage of those who have been arrested were jail. When you get arrested you get arrested. You pay fine and lost of of jobs for some. Some lose there children just for having a cannabis plant growing on or in there property.

  3. Avatar of Gene
    Gene / October 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I am from WA, and I agree with Martina Coordes and jboiside. Only small percentage of those who have been arrested were jailed, even much smaller percent were jailed on drug related charges (mostly DWI).

  4. Douglas / October 16, 2012 at 5:57 am

    These are the fact’s This is how many persons who have been arrested for Cannabis.

  5. jboside / October 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I agree with everything Ms. Coordes wrote. I would like to add that an individual that had simple posession were never incarcerated. They recieved a citation and were sent to a diversion program and if compleated, the charges were taken off their record.

  6. Avatar of Martina Coordes
    Martina Coordes / October 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I read through the original article and although this research is very compelling it is lacking a couple of key elements that legalization proponents often do to skew the opinion of the public. First of all the amount of arrests do not accurately reflect the real or full reason for the officer to make contact. It does not say that possession was the full and only reason a person was arrested. In the state of Washington an officer must have probable cause to pull some one over on the road or search their person. So the officer would have to have a good reason to search their car or person to even find the marijuana. They can’t just randomly pat people down for no reason. So this brings up the question, “why were these people stopped, searched and arrested” It is very unlikely that any of these arrestees were arrested solely for possessing marijuana. They could be associated with domestic violence calls, DUI, or distribution. Also the article does not talk about “how much” marijuana they were arrested for and if the arrest was made for possession with intent to deliver. I would also like to point out that the article states that marijuana arrests “creates a permanent criminal record”, but you and I both know that an arrest does not go on your record, it is not until after conviction that it becomes permanent.

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