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Police officers from the 77th Division gang unit detain several Crip gang members May 21, 2017 for a violation of smoking marijuana in public in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

legalization | 01.01.2022

Drug-Related Arrests Down Nearly 74 Percent in California Since Legalization

While the reports in California are positive, for at least 21 other states, cannabis arrests have increased between 2014 and 2016—in some cases, by more than 50 percent.

Cannabis arrests and charges in California dropped significantly between 2016—when the state voted to legalize recreational cannabis—and 2017. This, according to California’s most recent annual crime report, released by California Attorney General Xavier Bacerra.
According to the report, measured per 100,000 people, statewide felony drug offenses decreased 23.5 percent over 12 months. Cannabis and dangerous drug offense arrest rates dropped by a staggering 73.7 percent. Previous reports from researchers also found a significant drop in violent, drug-related crimes following states’ legalization of cannabis.
It’s not just felonies, either. In 2017, there were 3,979 arrests made for misdemeanor cannabis offenses, down from 5,861 in 2016.
In total, just over 6,000 cannabis-related arrests were made in California in 2017. In 2016, that number was nearly 14,000. Simply put: the rate of cannabis arrests in California was cut in half (56 percent) from one year to the next following recreational cannabis legalization.
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Former detective, now Sgt. Mark Andreozzi, of the Irvine Police Department, shown with evidence found in Kelli Peters’ PT Cruiser; 17 grams of Marijuana, 11 Percocet pill, and 29 Vicodin in an EZ Dose Pill pouch, in Irvine, Calif., on Aug. 7, 2016. (Photo by Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
In many states, however, the statistics aren’t so positive. According to a report by The Intercept, cannabis arrests have gone up between 2014 and 2016 in at least 21 states, some by more than 50 percent. In total, there were over 587,000 arrests made for cannabis-related offenses in 2016. 
Past reports have found that arresting people for drug use is ineffective in decreasing the use of those drugs.
This latest data shows that Hispanic and Black people are still predominantly arrested for both cannabis-related felony and misdemeanor offenses in California. The most disproportionately targeted group was Hispanic people, making up 832 cannabis-related felony arrests in 2017, compared to 494 arrests against White people, 438 against Black people, and 322 people who fit into the “other” category.
The report from California’s Attorney General also highlights the effect recreational cannabis has had on the state’s rate of intoxicated drivers.
While many have expressed concern over the potential increase of high drivers getting behind the wheel, the rate of DUI’s in California dropped by 5 percent in 2017 compared to 2016Drug policy experts expect this latest report from California’s Attorney General to reflect well on the state’s decision to legalize recreational cannabis.

Data for country-wide cannabis arrests in 2017 have yet to be released.

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