Law enforcement agencies made more arrests for marijuana possession last year than for all violent crimes combined, despite decriminalization and outright legalization in some states, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch and the ACLU. The report is harshly critical of drug policies that have 137,000 Americans behind bars on any given day for possessing marijuana or other drugs for their own personal use. Many of them are in pretrial detention in local jails, and those who are convicted end up with criminal records that "lock them out of jobs, housing, education, welfare assistance, voting, and much more," the report states.
The researchers found that black Americans smoke marijuana at around the same rate as whites but are four times as likely to be arrested for possessing small amounts of the drug, the New York Times reports. "It's been 45 years since the war on drugs was declared, and it hasn't been a success," lead author Tess Borden of Human Rights Watch tells the Washington Post. "Rates of drug use are not down. Drug dependency has not stopped. Every 25 seconds, we're arresting someone for drug use." The report calls for the government to take steps such as treating drug use as a health problem and decriminalizing the possession of drugs for personal use.