Marijuana Offenses Continue to Dominate U.S. Drug Arrests

Despite a growing number of states that have legalized recreational pot, FBI data shows that four out of every 10 drug arrests in the United States are for marijuana offenses, and the vast majority are for possession.

In North Carolina, as in the majority of other states, marijuana remains illegal. Unlike many others, the Tar Heel State does not offer any exemptions for medical marijuana. However, North Carolina has moved to decriminalize possession of less than one-half ounce.

Pot Accounts for 40% of All Drug Arrests

According to the FBI, police officers made roughly 663,000 arrests for marijuana offenses in 2018, which is the most recent data available. The Bureau says officers made 1.65 million total drug arrests that year. Here is the breakdown:

  • 40%: Arrests involving marijuana
  • 29%: Arrests involving “other” drugs not specified
  • 25%: Arrests involving heroin, cocaine or derivatives
  • 6%: Arrests involving synthetic or manufactured drugs

Northeast U.S. Sees a Higher Number of Pot Arrests

The FBI doesn’t break down arrest statistics state-by-state, instead they show results by region. North Carolina is included in the Northeast region, which saw the highest percentage of marijuana arrests at 53%, followed by the Midwest at 50%, the South at 49%, while the West was a distant fourth at 15%.

While data includes all arrests, including manufacturing or selling pot, an overwhelming 92% of all arrests were for possession. In North Carolina, possession of one-half ounce is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable with a $200 fine. Felony charges can result when a case involves at least 1.5 ounces. Penalties can result in jail time and a $1,000 fine.

Protect Your Rights

If you are arrested for drug charges, serious personal and financial consequences can occur. Immediately consult with an experienced defense attorney who will advocate for your rights and defend you against unreasonable police tactics while looking for ways to have the charges dropped or the penalties reduced.


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