For more than a decade the number of arrests related to marijuana has gone down, and while pot is becoming legal in more places, FBI crime statistics for 2016 and 2017 show the number of marijuana-related arrests have actually gone up across the country.
The change in stats is happening as more states legalize marijuana for either medical or recreational use. Ten states, including Nevada, have legalized recreational marijuana. Many of them happening in just the past couple of years.
In Nevada, one of the effects of voters passing question two back in 2016 was that it decriminalized marijuana possession in small amounts, meaning adults can buy and possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time, so what used to be a misdemeanor is no longer a crime.
In Las Vegas, Metro Police say there has not been any noticeable spike in weed-related crime, but Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo says his department is still busy.
“People quite often ask me ‘have we had any issues associated with marijuana?’ and just in the industry,” Lombardo said. “None in particular as far as crime in general, but in particular to intoxication and driving, it has become an issue.”
The effort to decriminalize cannabis is nothing new. County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani was a state lawmaker when voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 1998 and 2000, and she pushed a bill that downgraded possession of small amounts of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor.
“It really is a social justice issue, and they need now to focus on getting people out of prison that are there for marijuana use because it’s legal now, so we need to open those doors up,” Giunchigliani said.
Nationwide, the vast majority of marijuana-related arrests are for possession.
In 2017, of the 659,000 marijuana-related arrests in the United States, 600,000 or 91 percent were possession-related.