Monday, September 15, 2008

In FBI data, the real crime is the number of drug arrests

The latest FBI crime figures are out, and while there's plenty to mull over, perhaps the saddest news is that nonviolent activities -- involving drugs, in particular -- that violate nobody's rights and pose no threat to anybody else, rank so highly in terms of sheer numbers of arrests. According to the FBI, "Law enforcement made more arrests for drug abuse violations (an estimated 1.8 million arrests, or 13.0 percent of the total number of arrests) than for any other offense in 2007."

Logically enough,The Marijuana Policy Project is making hay about the fact that a huge number of those drug arrests were for "crimes" involving one of America's favorite intoxicants: marijuana.

Marijuana arrests set another all-time record in 2007, totaling 872,720 — that’s a marijuana arrest every 36 seconds.

Arrests for marijuana possession totaled 775,138, greatly exceeding arrests for all violent crimes combined, which totaled 597,447.

That's especially disturbing coming just months after a World Health Organization survey revealed that 42.4% of Americans have consumed marijuana at one time or another -- a number rivaled only by apparently very mellow New Zealanders. Any one of those millions could have been among the FBI's statistics.

But let's not gloss over the fact that the rest of the drug arrests -- from possession of "heroin or cocaine and their derivatives" to sale/manufacturing of "synthetic or manufactured drugs" were for nonviolent, consensual activities. Why should anybody be arrested for such "crimes" when there is no victim, no property damage and no violation of anybody's rights?

And that's without even addressing the 77,607 arrests for "prostitution and commercialized vice" and the 12,161 unlucky risk-takers who got hauled off for gambling.

The rest of the FBI's data indicates that there's plenty of real crime worthy of law-enforcement attention, from rape to murder to arson to a variety of property crimes.

With real acts of violence against people and property to occupy the attention of the nation's law enforcers, it's hard to understand why any resources at all are being devoted to dope smokers, coke snorters, sex workers and poker players.

Just having fun shouldn't be an arrestable offense.



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