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The Legal Cannabis Conundrum

Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in eleven states and Washington, DC, with 33 states making medical cannabis lawful. Others are lining up to pass similar laws. Yet, as the numbers increase, so does the number of arrests for possession of the drug.

A Pew Research Center poll revealed 62 percent of Americans supported legalized marijuana. The statistic included almost three-quarters of millennials who are onboard with lawful cannabis.

Recently released statistics from the FBI shows that nearly 664,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2018. The previous year saw approximately 659,000 apprehensions, with 2016 coming in around 653,000.

Ironically, that year was also the last time that marijuana arrests saw a decline from the previous year, a trend that lasted through the prior decade. Even more baffling is marijuana arrest numbers ranking higher than more serious crimes that include aggravated assault, burglary arson, and sex offenses.

These growing numbers of detentions fly in the face of a new and unprecedented era. State laws, including here in Colorado, and overall perceptions are changing 80 years after the enactment of federal laws prohibiting its use, sale and cultivation that are still in effect.

While America takes a piecemeal approach to legalized pot, countries to the north and south are taking broader actions. October of 2018 saw Canada becoming the first G6 country to legalize marijuana on a federal level. A Mexico Supreme Court recently ruled that prohibition of the drug violates their constitution, opening a door for new federal laws.