(Pittsburgh City Paper photo)
By Jason Phox
The FBI released its crime statistics for 2020 late last month, detailing that the nation saw a 36% decrease in marijuana-related arrests compared to 2019. This comes in contrast to Pennsylvania’s marijuana-related violations, which saw a 7% decrease in 2020 compared to 2019.
In the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police estimated over 350,000 arrests reported for marijuana-related violations last year, a decrease compared to the 545,602 marijuana-related arrests in 2019.
In a statement, the cannabis advocacy group NORML said that 91% of nationwide marijuana-related arrests were reported as marijuana possession offenses. Overall, the FBI’s report said marijuana-related arrests represented about 30% of all drug-related arrests in the U.S. in 2020.
Several states across the U.S. have legalized adult-use cannabis in 2020, but many of their laws were not yet operational during that year. Pennsylvania’s medical-cannabis law became operation in 2018, but the commonwealth has not legalized recreational cannabis.
“As more states move toward the sensible policy of legalizing and regulating cannabis, we are seeing a decline in the arrest of non-violent marijuana consumers nationwide,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri in a press release. “The fight for legalization is a fight for justice. While these numbers represent a historic decline in arrests, even one person being put into handcuffs for the simple possession of marijuana is too many.”
This nationwide decrease was in sharp contrast to Pennsylvania, which only saw a 7% decrease in marijuana-related arrests in 2020, even though small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in many of Pennsylvania’s largest cities, including Pittsburgh.
According to Pennsylvania State Police data compiled by NORML, there were 20,200 adults arrested for marijuana-related violations in the commonwealth in 2020. That’s compared to 21,789 in 2019, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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