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Matthew Radefeld & Dan Juengel
Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

As states get looser on marijuana use, police are cracking down

On Behalf of | Oct 15, 2019 | Drug Crimes |

State lawmakers around the country may be increasingly receptive to recreational use of marijuana, but those charged with enforcing marijuana laws are actually getting tougher. Data released recently by the FBI shows that U.S. law enforcement officers made 663,367 marijuana arrests in 2018.

That’s 3,667 more than in 2017 and 10,118 more arrests than in 2016. Prior to 2016, there was a steady decline in marijuana arrests nationwide for nearly a decade, according to annual FBI reports.

The arrest statistics are an estimate because they only represent arrests from local police agencies that participate in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report system. It is clear, however, that law enforcement is not turning a blind eye to recreational marijuana use in states where it is illegal. That includes Missouri. The majority of 2018 marijuana arrests in the U.S. – 608,775 (nearly 92%) were for possession.

Some are outraged

“Americans should be outraged that police departments across the country continue to waste tax dollars and limited law enforcement resources on arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens for simple marijuana possession,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri told Forbes.

There were more arrests for marijuana last year than arrests for aggravated assault, burglary, arson, fraud, disorderly conduct or sex offenses. Altieri claims that marijuana prohibition is a “failed and racist policy.”

Missouri has some of the toughest marijuana laws in the country. State lawmakers legalized medical use of marijuana in 2018, but recreational use is not legal.

In Missouri, first-time offenders who possess up to 10 grams of marijuana face a misdemeanor charge and must pay a fine up to $500, but they do not face incarceration. Conviction for a second possession offense could result in up to one year in jail.

The sentences for sales, trafficking or cultivation of marijuana are significantly more severe. For example, selling 30 or more kilograms can lead to a sentence of life in prison! Don’t underestimate the severity of any drug charge. Contact a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to minimize the impact of these charges.