FBI records show that 317,793 individuals were arrested inside the United States for possessing marijuana in 2020. Given that 19 states allow recreational marijuana to be sold and consumed by adults, these FBI figures bring plenty of questions to mind.
First, the data seems to suggest that the number of people who were arrested for possessing marijuana declined, yet again, from the number of arrests made in previous years. For example, at least 500,000 people were arrested for possession of marijuana in 2019. If the number for 2020 is just over 300,000, what is the problem?
The problem is that 2020 was also the year when COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the world, and almost the entire globe was locked down. This means that there was little contact between police officers and people, and that would suggest that arrests overall should have declined dramatically given that people were isolated in their homes due to stay-at-home orders and closed workplaces. It is not easy to conclude that on the whole, fewer marijuana possession arrests were made in 2020 in comparison to previous years.
The other question one immediately thinks of has to do with the reliability or even accuracy of that 2020 FBI data. From the 1980s, the FBI created a new system through which different police departments from around the country could report crime statistics. That system, abbreviated as NIBRS, aims to among other things make reported data more detailed than the data captured by the previous system, which only reflected the most serious offense for which an individual had been arrested. For example, if an individual was arrested for illegal gun possession and also for criminal trespass, the gun possession charge would be the only one reflected in the data captured by the FBI. The new system was designed to change this and gather data on all offenses for which arrests were made.
How does all this connect to marijuana? The transition to the new reporting system has been woefully slow, and the FBI allowed police departments to use both systems until 2021, when it put its foot down and stopped using the data in the old system. Leaving 2021 data aside, to what extent was the FBI report of 2020 reliable given that it depended on data from two reporting systems? Could there have been cases of double entry of data? Could there have been cases of data not entered at all into either system?
The case of Florida puts this question into perspective. In 2020, the state documented more than 170,000 cases of cannabis possession. In 2021, and with no changes to its laws, the state reported just 104 possession cases. Should this data be taken seriously?
Anyone interested in tracking how laws around marijuana have been evolving and how that affects various issues, such as the reasons why people are arrested, would want accurate and reliable data to draw valid conclusions. Even cannabis industry actors such as Prime Harvest Inc. want to know how various social justice matters are evolving as legalization spreads. The latest figures from the FBI are raising more questions than answers.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Prime Harvest Inc. are available in the company’s newsroom at https://cnw.fm/PRIME
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