Cannabis Arrests Continued in 2021, But FBI Crime Report Provides Incomplete Picture

The FBI’s Crime in the Nation report typically offers one of the most detailed accounts of criminal activity in the country, providing insight into the number of arrests made in jurisdictions nationwide, including cannabis arrests. However, this year’s report is presenting an incomplete picture.

While it’s clear that marijuana seizures and arrests remain one of the main focuses of drug enforcement efforts, the new report offers little substantial data to show how many people were arrested in 2021.

In the past, experts and media outlets have examined the figures to determine, among other things, the number of cannabis arrests still happening even as legalization spreads across the country. Past numbers have indicated that the War on Drugs is not quite over in many states.

However, don’t expect much insight this year. Only 52 percent of the country’s more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies submitted a full year of data for the report, while only 63 percent submitted any data at all. It’s the lowest rate of participation since 1979.

New Approach Lowers Participation

Law enforcement agencies may have chosen not to participate in the FBI Crime in the Nation report because the investigative agency changed how they want agencies to report crimes. Because participation is voluntary, many agencies decided to opt out, including the police departments in both Los Angeles and New York City.

The new data collection system, called NIBRS (National Incident Based Reporting System), requires greater detail and effort in logging crimes, according to CNN. The system is designed to generate more useful statistics that will “promote constructive discussion, measured planning, and informed policing,” the FBI website states. However, at least for 2021, it seems that insight is lacking due to the low participation rate.

As noted by CNN, it’s especially a disappointment because crime has become an issue in the upcoming midterm elections.

What the FBI Crime Reports Tells Us

With a lack of comprehensive data, the FBI had to make estimations based on the data it did receive. For example, the agency reported a 4.3 percent increase in homicides, but an overall decline of 1 percent in violent crime. The robbery rate also dropped by 8.9 percent.

But what about cannabis arrests? The report estimates that 45 percent of all drug seizures in 2021 involved cannabis or hashish. However, there is no data to indicate how many people police arrested for marijuana violations in 2021.

“At a time when voters and their elected officials nationwide are re-evaluating state and federal marijuana policies, it is inconceivable that government agencies are unable to produce any explicit data on the estimated costs and scope of marijuana prohibition in America,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a statement.

Armentano noted that the seizure estimates were troubling, indicating that “hundreds of thousands of Americans still continue to be arrested annually for these violations despite the reality that a majority of voters no longer believe that the adult-use of marijuana should be a crime.”

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