Marijuana Criminal Statistics

21 Dreadful Marijuana Criminal Statistics [2024 Update]

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One of the most prevalent types of substance abuse in the US involves marijuana. Even though it’s illegal on a federal level, most states in the US allow regulated use of marijuana.

This move for marijuana regulation contributed to the rising statistics of marijuana use. In fact, records show that over 127 million Americans have consumed marijuana at least once—over 3 million more than the previous year.

While many use marijuana for chronic pain relief, others use it as recreation and psychedelic drugs. As a result, many groups and individuals are concerned that marijuana criminal statistics are constantly rising.

Some even believe that marijuana use is more customary than the combined use of hallucinogens, inhalants, and cocaine. To determine the veracity of these claims, let’s go through some of the latest statistics and facts about marijuana and crime.

Disturbing Marijuana Usage Stats (Editor’s Choice)

  • About 66% of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana in the US.
  • Law enforcers are more likely to arrest Black Americans than White Americans.
  • Marijuana arrests account for 43% of all drug arrests in the US.
  • The US makes 600,000 marijuana arrests on average every year.
  • Law enforcers arrest approximately two individuals per minute for drug possession.
  • The US spends $3.6 billion on marijuana arrests every year.
  • A marijuana conviction can cost the felon from $2,000 to $20,000 in defense.

Stats on Marijuana Use and Crime

Most research and studies use statistics and figures to analyze the effects of marijuana on crime rates. Naturally, proponents and opponents of marijuana use have conflicting views and analogies, making accurate data all the more crucial.

Though statistics on marijuana and crime are scant, closely studying the figures can still provide essential insights.

1. About 66% of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana in the US.


Latest records show signs of changing times and behavior in the US with regards to marijuana. Compared to the early 2000s, more Americans are becoming receptive to the substance.

In fact, marijuana use statistics show that 66% of Americans support legalization and decriminalization of marijuana.

Further, support for marijuana use is surging across different states. For instance, based on cannabis industry statistics, Oregon’s sales growth for recreational marijuana reached 58% amid the pandemic.

2. Law enforcers are more likely to arrest Black Americans than White Americans.


Drug arrests by race statistics display a disturbing disproportion of drug arrests between African Americans and White Americans. In fact, nationwide data shows law enforcers arrest Blacks at a 3.6 times higher rate than Whites.

One might argue that the disproportion stems from disparity in usage rates. But, records also show that Blacks and Whites have similar marijuana consumption rates.

3. Marijuana arrests account for 43% of all drug arrests in the US.


Despite several reforms in various states, marijuana arrests are still widespread across the country. According to the latest marijuana arrest statistics in the US, about 43% of the total US drug arrests come from marijuana arrests.

Interestingly, nine out of ten of the marijuana arrests are for mere possession of the substance. This can have dire consequences like parents losing children during court proceedings, deportation for immigrants, and eviction from public housing.

4. The legalization of marijuana sale and use can do little to decrease marijuana crimes statistics.

(Cato Institute)

Most supporters of marijuana use claim that legalizing the substance can reduce crime rates and increase tax revenue. On the other hand, critics believe legalization will stimulate substance usage, increase crime, and lower traffic safety.

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence to support the claim that legalization has any substantial impact on the crime rate and public safety. For instance, while Nevada experienced a decline of 178 crimes per 100,000 post-legalization, Alaska increased by 152 crimes per 100,000.

Both states decriminalized possession and use. This leads analysts to believe that marijuana legalization has little to do with crime statistics overall.

5. According to drug offenses statistics, drug inmates account for almost half of all offenses in the US.


The Federal Bureau of Prisons released its latest records on the number of inmates incarcerated and the related offenses.

According to the documents, inmates who committed drug offenses of all types had the highest number, accounting for 46.3% of all incarcerated individuals.

It’s a disturbing figure considering it’s more than twice the next highest type of offender – inmates incarcerated for explosives and arson.

6. The US makes 600,000 marijuana arrests on average every year.

(Center for American Progress)

According to the US marijuana incarceration statistics, law enforcers arrest about 600,000 individuals every year because of marijuana. Despite the decriminalization of the substance in 33 states and the District of Columbia, the statistics suggest millions now hold criminal records.

7. Research suggests that recreational marijuana laws are leading to reduced rape and theft cases.

(National Bureau of Economic Research)

Analysts believe that the legalization of marijuana and crime statistics are inversely related. Theoretically, legalizing the substance will shrink the black market and reduce violence.

Apart from this, the legalization will allow enforcers to reallocate resources and efforts to non-drug crimes. For example, a study on Washington’s recreational marijuana laws shows a 15% to 30% reduction in rape cases and a 10% to 20% decline in theft cases.

8. Law enforcers arrest approximately two individuals per minute for drug possession.

(Aspenridge Recovery)

The US drug incarceration statistics show dismal figures on substance abuse in the country. Data across all states suggests that law enforcers arrest two individuals for drug possession every minute.

Further, about 80% of all drug and non-drug felons have problems with substance abuse. Clearly, these figures present a more severe issue on drugs for the entire country.

9. The most recent marijuana-related incarceration statistics show a significant decline in marijuana arrests.


The latest records on marijuana arrests across the US place the number to a total of 545,601 busts. This figure means that law enforcers nationwide arrested one individual every 58 seconds.

Interestingly, 92% of those arrests were for mere possession of the substance. Despite this vast number of busts, the figure is still 18% lower than the previous year’s number of arrests.

10. The US spends $3.6 billion on marijuana arrests every year.


The US is poised to earn billions of dollars with the legalization of marijuana. But for now, marijuana crime statistics show us that the country’s war on marijuana costs the country a considerable amount of money.

In fact, US law enforcers spend about $3.6 billion annually because of marijuana arrests. Several proponents of marijuana legalization argue that legalizing the substance makes economic sense.

11. A marijuana conviction can cost the felon from $2,000 to $20,000 in defense.


The latest marijuana crime statistics on the cost of defending a marijuana charge can range from $2,000 to $20,000. The accused individuals incur this cost due to legal services fees, court fees, bail fees, and other fines.

Considering the number of marijuana arrests the police make every year, defense for marijuana charges can reach billions of dollars annually.

12. Marijuana arrests can result in loss of income for the convicted felon.


Most research papers involve determining marijuana criminal statistics in relation to the costs the law enforcement incurs.

While the country’s marijuana arrest expenditures are staggering, the arrested individual also suffers overwhelming losses. One study estimates the loss to a convicted felon to reach $306,000 in lifetime earnings.

13. About 53% of arrests in the previous year happened in the northeastern region.


The latest marijuana criminal statistics from the FBI shed an intriguing light on where law enforcers are likely to make marijuana arrests. Based on the bureau’s records, cannabis arrests are less likely to occur in the western region.

Unsurprisingly, it’s in this area where most states have legalized marijuana use and possession. On the other hand, the northeastern region accounts for more than half of all drug arrests. About 53% of all drug arrests happened in the northeast.

Marijuana Criminal Statistics

Marijuana-Related Crime Statistics in America

Some researchers study specific states to get a better picture of Americans’ use of marijuana. This is a logical approach because some states have already legalized and decriminalized marijuana.

Some researchers compare marijuana use and crime statistics of legalized states against control states. In this way, analysts can understand better the impact of marijuana in a specific region on public safety.

14. Colorado’s marijuana black market continues to grow despite the state’s legalization of the substance.


The Colorado crime rates after legalization of the substance have been the subject of research inquiry year after year. Most researchers share the same purpose for their study – to provide policymakers and citizens data to help them make informed decisions. 

Contrary to the belief of legalization supporters, the marijuana black market continues to boom several years after the state’s legalization. In fact, one DEA team reports that handling marijuana trafficking accounts for 15% of its time and efforts.

This is a three-fold increase from the time they spent before the legalization of the substance. Consequently, the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice reports a 42% increase in charges for unregulated marijuana manufacturing.

15. The California crime rate after legalization of marijuana might increase in the next couple of years.

(Research Gate)

Researchers, lawmakers, law enforcers, and citizens have all posed questions regarding the impact of marijuana legalization on crime rates.

Most of these questions are thrown at states that have already legalized or decriminalized marijuana use and sale. One specific research studied the change in particular types of crimes after the legalization of marijuana in California.

According to the study, arson increased by 24.23%, rape by 19.84%, robbery by 12.41%, aggravated assault by 12.64%, burglary by 5.02%, and larceny by 3.46%. Only felony marijuana and non-marijuana arrests declined by 77.8% and 16.72%.

16. The Colorado marijuana crime statistics saw a spike in marijuana DUI arrests in the last year.

(CBS Denver)

The most recent records show that more drivers in Colorado are driving under the influence of a psychoactive substance. The Colorado State Patrol reports that DUI arrests for marijuana increased by 48% in the previous year.

However, it’s worth noting that the correlation between marijuana use and car crashes is still a subject of debate among researchers and lawmakers.

17. On a national scale, marijuana legalization seems to have little to no impact on crime rates.

(Cato Institute)

Despite the crime rate arguments of proponents and opponents, it appears that the USA crime statistics before and after marijuana legalization are inconclusive. This means there’s little evidence to support the claim that legalization can increase or decrease the crime rates in the country.

Violent crime rates in states with legal marijuana aren’t too far from the national trend for crime rates. In fact, the latest average violent crime rate for legalizing states is 394.85 per 100,000 persons. On the other hand, the national violent crime rate is 380.6 per 100,000 persons.

18. The arrest rate for medical marijuana-related crimes is 9% higher than violent crimes.


The FBI’s latest record on medical marijuana crime statistics, the department arrested 545,602 people in just a year due to marijuana use.

Compared to the number of violent crime arrests (495,871), the former is 9% higher. Over 90% of these marijuana-induced arrests were merely for possession of the weed. 

Drug Crime Statistics 2020

Even before Covid-19 hit the shores of the US, the country had already been dealing with an enormous problem. The illicit use of prescription and non-prescription drugs has caused severe problems in the economy and the public’s safety.

Despite the country’s problems with Covid-19, 2020 drug-related crimes statistics show disconcerting figures.

Although incarceration rates for drug-related crimes are on a downward trend, a breakdown of the statistics shows alarming trends. Evidently, the country’s problems with illicit drugs are far from over.

19. Drug arrests statistics published in 2020 show alarming figures for incarcerated women.

(The Prison Policy Initiative)

Data shows the incarceration rate in the US follows a decreasing trend. While this is good news, a breakdown of the data shows an alarming movement in the number of incarcerated women.

Apparently, the number of drug arrests for women has grown by 216% from its 1985 baseline arrest numbers. This extensive increase in drug-related arrests has contributed to the overall increase in the number of incarcerated women.

In fact, law enforcers hold more than a quarter of convicted and unconvicted women because of drug-related charges.

20. According to drug arrests statistics 2020 by state, Missouri has the worst drug problems in the US.

(The Street)

The widespread misuse of prescription and non-prescription drugs has been one of the biggest problems of the US. One personal finance site gathered data to rank the 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine the states with the worst issues with drugs.

Based on the collected data, Missouri ranked first in the number of drug arrests per capita. The state also ranked 18th in the drug addiction category as per drug addiction statistics.

21. The Oregon crime rate since legalization has increased substantially according to a 2020 published journal.

(Science Direct)

Proponents and opponents of marijuana legalization constantly point out the impact of legalizing marijuana on public safety and crime rate. Despite the competing views and arguments, both views present compelling reasons for their stand.

However, investigative research that aims to provide concrete evidence to the opposing sides’ claims has been few and contradicting. For instance, crime rates for property crime and larceny in Colorado decreased with the legalization of marijuana.

On the other hand, Oregon crime rates yielded different results. The state experienced significant increases in the number of severe crime cases per 100,000. Research findings show a rise of 49.4 violent crime cases and 39.4 aggravated assault cases per 100,000 population.


Marijuana-related crime statistics seem to generate conflicting figures and findings. On top of that, proponents and opponents of marijuana legalization both present sound arguments for their position.

Studies on crime rates in states that legalized marijuana can’t paint a clear picture of the impacts of marijuana legalization. What appears to be a trend for one state may not necessarily hold for another.

For this reason, all states must conduct more research to draw out how marijuana legalization can affect crime rates in specific regions.


According to the most recent statistics, the US makes 600,000 marijuana arrests on average every year. This seems like a significant number, but not all of the arrested individuals will stay in jail. Some will pay the fines, while others will have the charges dropped altogether.

Based on the most recent count, there are over 40,000 incarcerated persons because of marijuana offenses. Some of these infractions are for mere possession of a small amount of the substance.

Despite the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana in several states for medical and recreational use, the substance is still illegal on a federal level. For this reason, law enforcers are still making plenty of marijuana arrests every year.

Recent estimates place the number by 600,000 marijuana arrests per annum. This means that police officers across the country make one to two marijuana arrests every minute.

Proponents of marijuana legalization believe legalizing the substance can significantly improve crime rates in the US. For one, police will no longer arrest individuals who possess and use small amounts of marijuana at a time.

This will crunch the UCR’s numbers in its annual report. Also, proponents expect a reduction in black market activities where most of the violent crimes happen.

Proponents also point out that the reduced arrests because of legalization will allow law enforcers to reallocate resources to restrain and decimate more serious crimes.

Currently, federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug based on the Controlled Substances Act. This means marijuana has a high potential for abuse and lacks any medical value.

On a federal level, growing, marketing, distributing, possessing any drug under this classification is illegal. The Controlled Substances Act makes involvement in marijuana production, manufacturing, and distribution unlawful, even if it’s indirect involvement.

Entities charged for this crime can receive up to five years imprisonment and fines up to $1 million.

Possession of the substance is also a federal crime, even if your home state has legalized marijuana. This charge is punishable by up to a year of imprisonment with a minimum fine of $1,000.

Several states have legalized and decriminalized marijuana use and possession for medical and recreational use. Proponents of marijuana legalization expect marijuana-related crimes to decline over the years following legalization and decriminalization.

However, the latest marijuana criminal statistics report otherwise. Records show that 43% of all drug-related arrests are because of marijuana. Unfortunately, approximately 40% of marijuana crimes are mere possession of the substance.

For some, these figures serve as evidence of the negligible impact legalization has on marijuana-related crimes.