Dec. 12, 2014 – California reported 13,779 felony and 6,587 misdemeanor arrests for marijuana in 2013, about the same as the year before, according to the latest data from the Criminal Justice Statistics Center. An unknown number of additional persons, probably in the tens of thousands, were cited for possession infractions of an ounce or less, which are no longer counted in the state’s arrest data.
Meanwhile, the number of DUI arrests dropped 7.5% to 162,199, the lowest level in decades, belying concerns that the state might be suffering a crisis in drug DUIs due to increased marijuana use. California doesn’t count drug DUIs separately, but lumps them together with alcohol DUIs (beginning next year, the two will be separately reported).
The state saw an increase in other drug arrests, driven by a 20% increase in dangerous drug felonies to 85,035, the highest level since 2005. Dangerous drugs are defined to include methamphetamine and other controlled substances except for so-called “narcotics,” comprising heroin and cocaine, which accounted for another 74.329 arrests. Altogether, the state recorded 218,021 drug arrests in 2013, up slightly from last year but well below the peak levels of over 300,000 reported in 2005–6.
Felony arrests account for the bulk of the state’s marijuana enforcement costs, which are estimated to be in the low hundreds of million dollars per year. Felony marijuana arrests have ranged more or less steady between 11,000 and 17,000 since the mid-1980s, with no evident impact from California’s 1996 medical marijuana law.
Future reductions in the cost of marijuana enforcement can be expected if the state votes to end marijuana prohibition, as will be proposed in a 2016 ballot initiative backed by Cal NORML and the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform: for more, see ReformCA.com.
1976 – Minor possession decriminalized to a misdemeanor
1996 – Medical marijuana made legal
2011 – Minor possession made an infraction, no longer reported in arrest stats.
– Dale Gieringer, Cal NORML
Also see: California Arrest and Prisoner Data