The Hive Law

How Many People Are In Jail For Weed (53 Marijuana Conviction Statistics)

How Many People Are In Jail For Weed - Marijuana Convictions - Marijuana Crimes Statistics

How many people are in jail for weed?

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • how many people are in jail for weed for the last 10 years
  • 57 marijuana crime statistics
  • which race gets arrested the most (it’s not white)
  • how much more likely black people are to get arrested than white people
  • how much each possession of marijuana prisoner costs taxpayers
  • how much does each marijuana arrest cost the police force
  • which narcotics get fewer arrests than marijuana users

Let’s dig in.

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How Many People Are In Jail For Weed?

  • In 2019, 545,602 people were arrested for marijuana.
  • Marijuana arrests happen every 58 seconds.
  • 2,164,885 are in prison for marijuana-related charges.
  • 4,534,535 Americans in the past 10 years have been arrested for possession of weed (FBI).
  • 541,478 Americans in the past 10 years have been arrested for the sale of marijuana (FBI).
  • Marijuana arrests make up 30.3% of all drug convictions.
  • 36% of simple possession of marijuana charges led to serving time in federal prison.
  • Misdemeanor marijuana offenses cost ~$2,000 to defend.
  • Felony marijuana possession costs ~$10,000 to defend.
  • Felony marijuana distribution costs ~$20,000 to defend.
  • Police spend an average of $4,390 per arrest for possession of marijuana.
  • The average annual cost for an inmate is $21,006.
  • With 545,602 marijuana arrests, that’s $11b in taxpayer dollars for inmates.
  • State felony marijuana charges have an average jail time of 20 months.
  • State felony marijuana offenders cost taxpayers $35,000 on average.
  • Marijuana trafficking’s average sentence length is 29 months.
  • Hispanics make up 62.4% of marijuana trafficking convictions.
  • 40.3% of marijuana trafficking convictions were non-U.S. citizens.
  • Federal felony marijuana charges have an average jail time of 81 months.
  • Federal felony marijuana drug arrests cost taxpayers $141,750 on average.
  • 6% of marijuana charges lead to felony charges.
  • Felony marijuana charges reduce lifetime wage earnings by $306,000 on average.
  • Cannabis-related charges reduce lifetime earnings by 30.3%.
  • Black people are 3.7x more likely to get arrested for marijuana.
  • No one can get a life sentence in federal prison solely for marijuana possession.
  • Only 1.6% of the prison population has ONLY marijuana charges.
  • Only 0.7% of the prison population has ONLY marijuana possession charges.
  • Only 0.3% of federal and state prisoners are first-time marijuana possession charges.
  • Marijuana only made up 7% of all drug convictions for Americans last year.
  • 97.7% of marijuana charges in Federal Court are for drug trafficking.
  • 2.3% of marijuana charges in Federal Court are for marijuana possession.

Let’s talk more about how many people are in jail for weed.

Marijuana Convictions And Federal Prison

This data got pulled from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

They divided drug convictions into two categories:

  • trafficking-related charges
  • possession related charges

Trafficking-related charges made up 70% of marijuana convictions.

Possession of marijuana made up 27% of marijuana convictions.

But, how many of these people with marijuana charges are part of the prison population?

Let’s look at more data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Marijuana Convictions And Federal Prison - Marijuana Arrests - People In Jail For Weed

These are how many people are in federal prison for marijuana charges.

  • Drug Possession Only – 5.6%
  • First Time Drug Offenders – 3.6%
  • Offenses Involving Marijuana – 2.7%
  • Prisoners For Marijuana Only – 0.7%
  • First Time Offenders For Marijuana Possession Only – 0.3%

36% of simple possession of marijuana charges led to serving time in federal prison.

Cannabis Drug Offenses

Recall that 545,600 people were arrested for marijuana in 2019.

Of those, 92% (500,395) were arrested for marijuana possession only.

For that same year, marijuana arrests were 9% greater than violent crime arrests.

The number of people who were arrested for violent crimes in 2019 was 495,871.

But arrests don’t answer how many people are in jail for weed.

Cannabis Arrests By Region

These are the percentage of people arrested for marijuana possession.

The percentages are marijuana possession arrests vs arrests for possession of:

  • heroine or cocaine
  • synthetic or manufactured drug possession
  • other dangerous drug possessions
Marijuana Arrests By State - Marijuana Convictions By State

The marijuana arrests by region are:

  • Northeast – 48.9%
  • Midwest – 45.8%
  • South – 44.8%
  • West – 13.4%

Here’s how marijuana convictions stacked up against other drug arrests across America.

In the Northeast:

Marijuana Arrests In New York - Marijuana Arrests In The Northeast

In the Midwest:

In the South:

Marijuana Arrests In Florida Georgia Tennessee - Marijuana Arrests In The South

In the West:

Marijuana Arrests In California Colorado Oregon Utah Nevada - Marijuana Arrests In The West

Let’s look at marijuana legalization by the state to see how that correlates to that data.

Most of the states in the West are recreational marijuana states.

Where they have legalized the use of marijuana recreationally.

Recreational Marijuana States

Recreational Marijuana States

In that region, decriminalization shows in the number of marijuana arrests.

Because of decriminalization, marijuana arrests only make up 14.9% of drug convictions.

And Illinois gave pardons to all marijuana-related charges when they legalized it.

These pardons expunged criminal records for weed-related drug convictions.

But in the other regions, cannabis-related charges make up 40%-50% of drug convictions.

Medical Marijuana Only States

We can see the states where medical marijuana is legal. 

But recreational marijuana is not legal. 

Medical Marijuana States - People In Jail For Weed - Marijuana Arrest

Decriminalization Of Simple Marijuana Possession

Some states have increased their decriminalization of marijuana offenses.

They have made simple possession of marijuana a civil crime.

These drug convictions are the equivalent of a traffic ticket in:

  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • Ohio

Other states have completely reigned back law enforcement for the use of marijuana.

Meaning the elimination of incarceration for the first offense of simple possession of marijuana.

This has happened in:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New York (Gov Cuomo)
  • Ohio
  • Oregon

Possession of marijuana is legal for those with medical marijuana privileges.

As long as they don’t have more than the allowed amount of cannabis.

But, those with medical marijuana cannot:

  • let other people smoke their cannabis
  • give or offer their cannabis to other people
  • sell their cannabis

Per the Federal Government, this is still illegal.

First Time Marijuana Arrests

At the federal level, simple possession of marijuana gets treated as a civil offense.

These “simple possession” charges are for amounts under an ounce.

Prosecutors have the ability to charge offenders under the “personal use” statute.

“Personal use” is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine for a first offense.

But there are reasons a first-time weed conviction might end up serving time.

Usually, this is if the marijuana offenses were committed:

  • while on probation or parole
  • in combination with other charges
  • by someone with a criminal record history
  • in a drug-free zone (i.e., school zones or religious buildings)

Marijuana Convictions By Race

Let’s look at marijuana convictions by race.

This data gets pulled by the United States Sentencing Commission.

The marijuana convictions by race are:

  • White – 14.7%
  • Black – 17.8%
  • Hispanic – 62.4%
  • Other – 5.1%

How Many People Are In Jail For Weed?

This is a great example of how many people are in jail for weed.

Looking at data from the Department of Justice, we can see how many people are in jail for weed.

And we get the exact prison population for those in our criminal justice system.

On average, the prison population for marijuana-related charges is 2,164,885.

Democrats are attempting to expand the number of prisons for the war on drugs.

Biden and the senate met opposition from non-profit organizations like:

  • NORML
  • The Last Prisoner Project
  • Drug Policy Alliance

The executive directors of these groups met the senate in Washington, DC.

They presented gaps in data that the Bureau of Justice Statistics had.

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