The share of arrests for marijuana possession has more than tripled since 1991
Skyrocketing incarceration rates for nonviolent drug offenders have come to symbolize the futility of the national “war on drugs.” Even the most ardent drug legalization opponents are beginning to view drug use through the lens of public health, rather than criminal justice.
This shift in focus is evident at the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, which for decades has been the command center of the federal war on drugs. The ONDCP now emphasizes “balance” as a key component of federal drug strategy. “Drug addiction is not a moral failing but rather a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated,” the agency states on its website. “Drug policy is a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue.”
That said, it doesn’t seem that the nation’s law enforcement agencies have embraced the new approach. While the number of arrests for all offenses has declined nationally since 1991, the share of arrests related to simple marijuana possession has more than tripled over the same time period.