The Federal Bureau of Investigation has spent millions of tax dollars and the last seven years updating its reporting system for crime statistics. The use of the agency’s National Incident-Based Reporting System was meant to offer clear and nationally representative data on crime trends in the country. However, the new data doesn’t give complete information, especially concerning drug arrests across America during the past year.
If anything, the end result for last year’s data raises questions for individuals tracking trends on drug enforcement, which include cannabis-related arrests. The FBI’s fragmented data on the criminalization of drugs still shows that marijuana is the main driver of the war on drugs, with cannabis and hashish making up nearly one-half of all drug-related seizures.
This is a huge gap, even if one considers that the federal agency’s Uniform Crime Reporting program has historically been limited by the fact that not all state and local law enforcement agencies consistently report their individual data or even submit it. For instance, as of April 2022, only 19 states had fully transitioned to the use of the reporting system, with 31 others having transitioned partially.
Historically, the federal agency accounted for the gaps in reporting by releasing estimates on national arrest data, which included percentage distribution breakdowns by type of drug. This year, however, there aren’t any comparable datasets that would enable analysts to estimate how many individuals had been arrested over marijuana. The data also seems to be in conflict with one another.
For instance, total drug arrests based on the public-facing data add up to 564,123, but when arrests are broken down by state, the aggregate drug-abuse violations come to 561,795. It should be noted that this doesn’t take into account how many of these violations overlapped with total arrests and neither does the data dis-aggregate drug types.
Additionally, the total number of drug/narcotic offenses for last year add up to 1,290,858 incidents, which is almost double the number of violations or drug arrests. This figure is also significantly higher and different than those from another document, which shows that in 2021 there were 707,971 drugs/narcotics offenses.
The reason why transparency and reliable figures are needed is because the federal agency’s data is relied on by the media, researchers and legislators to understand and contextualize trends of law enforcement. This, in turn, may influence how policies are crafted and implemented as well as how the public understands crime.
In an interview, Paul Armentano of NORML stated that it was inconceivable that federal agencies weren’t able to produce clear data on the estimated costs and scope of cannabis prohibition in the United States.
It is these systemic vestiges of prohibition that are holding back the marijuana industry and its various actors, such as American Cannabis Partners, from reaching their full potential facilitated by a regulatory system that is geared at supporting rather than holding back the industry.
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