Report: Pot Laws Selectively Enforced

  Report: Pot Laws Selectively Enforced

Posted by FoM on June 27, 2000 at 20:15:54 PT
By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY  
Source: USA Today 

More than a third of all marijuana arrests nationwide are made in 10 counties, according to a study of police arrest data released Tuesday. The study found that Alaska, New York, Nebraska, Mississippi and South Carolina had the highest marijuana arrest rates in the country, even though the first four states de-criminalized light pot use decades ago. In those states, as well as in Oregon, California, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio and North Carolina, possession of a small amount of pot, typically less than an ounce, is punishable by fines that range from $200 to $400.
The study, by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), reviewed more than 1.4 million arrest reports from 1995 through 1997. Its authors say the results illustrate selective enforcement and inconsistent punishment , even within counties in the same state.Critics of the survey say marijuana arrests - which have doubled over the past two decades to roughly 670,000 a year - indicate the laws are working. "As long as it's illegal, it has to be treated that way, with aggressive enforcement," says Natalie Olson, a spokesman for Families First, an anti-drug organization based in New York. That state led the nation in marijuana arrests in 1997 with 73,380.Fulton County, Ga., which includes Atlanta, led all counties with populations greater than 250,000, with 775 pot arrests for every 100,000 people. Five counties in New York were among the top 10 counties with populations greater than 250,000; they accounted for more than 38% of all pot arrests. The rest of the top 10: Douglas County, Neb.; Guilford County, N.C.; East Baton Rouge County, La.; and Jefferson County, Texas. Alaska was the nation's harshest enforcer , with an arrest rate of 418 per 100,000 people. Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Hawaii had the lowest arrest rates, with fewer than 135 arrests per 100,000 people.Allen St. Pierre, a spokesman for NORML, said analysts were surprised to see that the top four states in marijuana enforcement had de-criminalized light marijuana use in the '70s. "Obviously, some states have a full enforcement apparatus set up, either for political reasons or to bend the laws as much as possible," he said.While smaller counties had fewer total arrests, some had astronomical arrest rates. In Hudspeth County, Texas, which has a population of 3,200, there was roughly one arrest for marijuana for every 15 residents in 1997. "That's what you get when you live in small towns," resident Edward Welch said. "Everyone knows your business. And I'm sure the cops can smell it a mile away."Published: June 27, 2000© Copyright 2000 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.  NORML Marijuana Arrests NORML Archives:

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Comment #2 posted by julie pezze on June 17, 2001 at 10:52:18 PT:

Well I'm all for the legalization of marijuna and other drugs of course that will leave little personal use for law enforcement who most likely supplement their ouwn use with that that they acquire from citizens. Also without the goverment's war on drugs campaigns, what would they do with those additional tax dollars? In Denver County large amounts of the evil weed have somehow dissapeared from the custody of the Denver Police Dept's evidence room. They haven't caught the culprits but its pretty obvious. All in all the legalization would cut down on crime and release 3/4 of the people in jail being held as an icon for all the goverment is doing for us. Yea right, the only thing the goverment is serving by not decrminalizing drugs is themselves. Enough said.
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Comment #1 posted by CD1 on June 28, 2000 at 12:15:45 PT


I'm sure, even though not reported, that race is an issue in many of these arrests. Of the counties reportedly leading the nation in arrest, all the ones I have visited have a large percentage of minorities. This may be speculation on my part, but I think it does warrant investigation. Here's a solution for all of you citizens concerned about the amount of drug arrests in your communities. Legalize marijuana, and I am willing to bet the amount of arrests will go down. 
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