An estimated 653,249 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana in 2016, according to new data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
That’s a 1.6 percent increase from 2015, when marijuana arrests reached a 20-year low.
Those marijuana arrests make up more than half of the total number of drug-related offenses the FBI reported. More than 89 percent of the arrests were for simple possession.
“Arresting and citing more than half a million people a year for a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol is a travesty,” said Morgan Fox, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Despite a steady shift in public opinion away from marijuana prohibition, and the growing number of states that are regulating marijuana like alcohol, marijuana consumers continue to be treated like criminals throughout the country. This is a shameful waste of resources and can create lifelong consequences for the people arrested.”
It’s unclear how state marijuana policy affected the arrests. The FBI did not provide a state-by-state breakdown of the data.
California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine legalized marijuana for recreational use on election day last year. Twenty-six states have legalized marijuana in some form.
Earlier this year, the National Conference of State Legislatures, a body of hundreds of lawmakers representing all 50 states, passed a resolution urging the federal government remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to pursue the harshest penalties possible for, incuding mandatory minimum sentences, even for non-violent drug offenders.