Marijuana Possession Arrests and Prosecutions Still Commonplace

American’s changing views about marijuana were recently published in a Pew Research Center study, indicating that the majority of us now favor legalizing the drug.  However, most of us are unaware of the questionable way that law enforcement keeps interacting with those still being arrested for illegal marijuana use.

A recent article entitled, “The Many Different Faces of Marijuana in America,” makes it clear that law enforcement must work toward fairer treatment of everyone who uses this drug. Unfortunately, at a time when so many state laws on marijuana are in conflict with federal statutes, it’s arguably easier to ignore apparent discrimination in arrests.

marijuana chargesIn our rush to allow medical marijuana use in many states – and even recreational use in others, we may be forgetting the disparate impact that our criminal laws are having on the population.

How Laws Concerning Marijuana Keep Impacting Our Society

  • As of 10 years ago, “marijuana possession arrests made up 37% of all drug arrests.”  However, in spite of our nation’s growing acceptance of marijuana, “half of all drug arrests are now marijuana – related . . . and 9 out of 10 of those are for possession;” 
  • At present, “African-Americans are four times [more] likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana than whites, even though blacks and whites consume weed at about the same rate;” 
  • This tendency to arrest far more blacks than whites for the same marijuana offenses holds true across the country. “It’s happening in small towns, big towns, urban and rural [areas].”

Reasons provided for the continuing crackdown on marijuana possession are not very satisfying. Perhaps the most revealing argument ties many of the new arrests to the heavy influx of federal dollars into the hands of local law enforcement to fight the long-standing “War on Drugs.”

Under this theory, even though we’ve made great progress in curtailing of America’s recent “crack epidemic,” the same level of funding is still pouring in – but now it’s being more directly targeted toward curtailing the illegal use of marijuana.

One expert suggests that some of these problems are due to local law enforcement simply not wanting to give up the federal funds, regardless of the progress being made in reducing the usage of “hard” drugs. As he put it, “Institutions don’t like to shrink . . . It’s actually a reverse kind of pattern – drug arrests are going up [even] as crime drops.”

It will be interesting to see how all of these conflicts play out in our courts and legislative bodies during the upcoming months and years.

Possession of under 1oz of marijuana in Massachusetts remains a non-criminal act, but people are still arrested for marijuana crimes every day in the Commonwealth. Possession of more than an once, or even a thin accusation of felony distribution charges (even for less than on once!) is possible.

If you are facing any of these accusations, call me for a free legal consultation.


If you’ve been arrested or accused of committing any drug possession offense, you can contact the Law Offices of Massachusetts criminal defense attorney Russell J. Matson — 24 hours a day — to obtain the criminal defense representation you need: (781) 380-7730.