From Paul Armentano , Deputy Director of NORML and co-author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? , comes this not-at-all surprising statistic: a near-record number of marijuana-related arrests were made in 2008 (847,864). The overwhelming majority, 89%, were for simple possession.
What would happen if we took all that money being flushed away for law enforcement, court costs, and the cost of imprisoning hundreds and thousands of otherwise law-abiding Americans (the article doesn’t mention it, but I’m thinking it’s extremely likely the arrests disproportionately target the poor), and spent it on, I don’t know, just about anything else? Schools. Public transportation. The arrest and prosecution of violent criminals. It’s really a question of priorities.
From the article:
Washington, DC: Police arrested 847,864 persons for marijuana violations in 2008, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report , released today. The total marks a three percent decrease in marijuana arrests from 2007, when law enforcement arrested a record 872,721  Americans for cannabis-related violations.
Marijuana arrests now comprised one-half (49.8 percent ) of all drug arrests reported in the United States.
Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 89 percent, 754,224 Americans were charged with possession only. The remaining 93,640 individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes all cultivation offenses, even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use.