NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Enforcement Of Marijuana Laws Varies Widely

June 28, 2000

 A study released by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws -- which seeks to legalize the substance -- say marijuana laws are selectively enforced and punishment is inconsistent, even from one county to another in the same state.

  • More than one-third of all marijuana arrests nationwide are made in just 10 counties, the study says.
  • Alaska, New York, Nebraska, Mississippi and South Carolina had the highest marijuana arrest rates in the country -- even though the first four states decriminalized light use decades ago.
  • In those states, as well as Oregon, California, Maine, Colorado Minnesota, Ohio and North Carolina, possession of a small amount of marijuana -- typically less than an ounce -- is punishable by fines that range from $200 to $400.
  • Marijuana arrest rates have doubled over the past two decades to roughly 670,000 a year.

Fulton County, Ga. -- which includes Atlanta -- led counties with populations over 250,000, with 775 arrests for every 100,000 population.

Alaska was the nation's toughest enforcer, with a statewide arrest rate of 418 per 100,000. Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Hawaii had the lowest arrest rates.

Source: Scott Bowles, "Ten Counties Account for a Third of Marijuana Arrests," USA Today, June 28, 2000.

For NORML text:


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