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Every 42 Seconds, Someone Is Arrested for Pot

A new report from the FBI shows just how high drug arrests in the US remain—even for marijuana possession.

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By May Wilkerson

10/29/12

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One person in the US is arrested for pot every 42 seconds, according to a report released today by the FBI—and 82% of these arrests are for possession only. A total of 1.5 million drug arrests were recorded in 2011, of which about 50% were for marijuana, according to the new report. These staggering numbers surface just a week before residents of three states—OregonWashington and Colorado—vote on whether or not to legalize and regulate small amounts of marijuana for adult use. According to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the statistics provide the latest evidence of the continuing failure of the 40-year War on Drugs, which has cost the country $545 million without substantially cutting drug use. "Even excluding the costs involved for later trying and then imprisoning these people, taxpayers are spending between one and a half to three billion dollars a year just on the police and court time involved in making these arrests," says Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop who heads LEAP, and who gave an extensive interview to The Fix last year. "That’s a lot of money to spend for a practice that four decades of unsuccessful policies have proved does nothing to reduce the consumption of drugs." Franklin claims the three state ballot measures could be the "first step" in ending the country's failing efforts to tackle drugs: "I hope [voters] take this opportunity to guide the nation to a more sensible approach to drug use.”

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