Despite growing acceptance, marijuana arrests are rising

With marijuana gaining greater acceptance among the general population and with the majority of Michigan residents saying they support the drug's legalization, it may be surprising to hear that marijuana-related arrests in Michigan are actually on the upswing. According to Michigan Radio, however, that is precisely what is happening, with arrests for marijuana possession or use rising 17 percent between 2008 and 2014, despite the fact that overall arrests for all crimes actually declined 15 percent over the same period.

Rising arrest rates

The overall number of arrests in Michigan last year for marijuana use or possession stood at 20,483, according to MLive. In addition to the rising number of arrests for marijuana use and possession, Michigan State Police data also shows that marijuana-related arrests accounted for approximately two-thirds of overall drug arrests in the state in 2014.

Certain demographics are also more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than others. People aged 18 to 24, for example, accounted for 43 percent of all such arrests. Also, men accounted for 83 percent of 2014 marijuana-related arrests, which makes them five times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana offense despite being only 1.7 times more likely to use the drug when compared to women. Finally, an African-American was three times more likely than a white person to be arrested for marijuana use or possession despite marijuana-usage rates being similar among both groups.

Impact of legalization

The rising number of arrests may appear especially surprising given the fact that 15 Michigan communities in recent years have successfully passed voter initiatives to decriminalize marijuana. In communities where marijuana has been decriminalized, the effect on arrest rates has been mixed. In Grand Rapids, for example, marijuana use and possession arrests plunged from 952 in 2011 to 93 in 2014. In Lansing, however, arrests rose from 73 to 79 over the same period and in Ypsilanti from 74 to 88.

Despite the growing number of arrests, marijuana use does appear to be gaining greater social acceptance. A federal drug survey shows, for example, that the number of daily or near-daily marijuana users rose from 5.1 million in 2005 to 2007 to 8.1 million in 2013. Furthermore, advocates are currently campaigning to have an initiative added to the Michigan state ballot in November 2016 that, if passed, would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in Michigan for adults 21 years old and over.

Dealing with drug charges

As the above article shows, greater social acceptance of marijuana does not mean that police are more likely to turn a blind eye to marijuana use. Marijuana and other drug charges still happen and they need to be taken seriously. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to offer anybody facing a drug charge the guidance and advice they need in order to protect their future.