According to new data released by the U.S. Department of Justice, federal arrests connected to marijuana have continued to plummet each year as states continue reforming their cannabis laws and creating markets for this substance. The report says that the number of people arrested by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has registered an annual 11% decline from 2010. In that year, a total of 8,215 arrests connected to marijuana charges were made by the federal agency. However, the figure has dropped over time to the 2,576 arrests on record in 2020.
It isn’t immediately clear which specific factors are behind the drop in arrests, but the DEA says the COVID-19 pandemic, which was at its peak in 2020, was responsible for a huge decline (81%) in the number of people arrested on marijuana charges between March and April 2020, when stay-at-home orders had just been issued across the country. During those two months, cannabis prosecutions also registered a 77% slump.
However, marijuana industry advocates see the reason for the drop in a different way. They think that the Department of Justice has used its discretionary powers to refrain from pursuing low-level marijuana infractions, especially since the guidance provided during President Barack Obama’s time in the Oval Office urged the department to be less vigilant in going after marijuana users in states where such possession or use is permitted. The wave of cannabis legalization has also had a hand in reducing the frequency of arrests by the DEA, advocates say.
Of all the arrests connected to drugs, only 16% of those arrests were connected to marijuana. The vast majority of the arrests were related to methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine in powder form. The report clearly shows that of all drugs, cannabis has registered the steepest slump in the number of arrests conducted by the DEA.
It is also noteworthy that the DEA report says that most people serving time in federal prisons have a drug charge as the most serious offense they face. In fact, nearly half (47%) of the entire prison population have a drug charge to their name. In 2010, the fraction stood at 53%, so there is a decline in that regard as well.
Data from different sources backs up the findings of the DOJ. For example, the FBI authored a report in 2020 showing a nationwide drop in cannabis-related arrests. Also, 2018 research conducted by the Cato Institute concluded that the legalization of marijuana in different states had significantly reduced the rate at which marijuana was being smuggled into the country.
These statistics may indirectly suggest that the marijuana consumers have come to trust the products commercialized by licensed marijuana companies such as Flora Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: FLGC) in the jurisdictions where such companies are allowed to operate.
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