Washington, DC — The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) reports that fewer Americans were charged with cannabis-related “crimes” in 2021 than in the years previous. In 2012 almost 7,000 people were charged with violating federal cannabis law, a greater number than charges for other drug crimes that year. By 2016 that number fell to less than 3,500 people charged for cannabis.
And the numbers keep decreasing. Last year federal officials charged under 1,000 Americans with cannabis crimes, constituting less than 6% of total annual federal drug charges.
NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said of the latest figures, taken from the US Sentencing Commission’s 2021 Annual Report: “Although Congress has failed to amend federal cannabis laws, clearly the attitudes and priorities of federal prosecutors have shifted in the era of state-level marijuana legalization. Now it’s time for federal lawmakers to codify these changes in priorities by descheduling marijuana.”
While many states have decriminalized or legalized the medical or recreational use of cannabis, federal law still criminalizes all cannabis use. Cannabis remains a Schedule 1 substance under federal law. Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is determined to possess a high potential for abuse with no “acceptable medical use.” The majority of Americans consider that designation to be erroneously out of date and needs to change.
The most recent Gallup Poll reveals that almost 3 out of 4 Americans support no jail time, but rather a fine, for the recreational use of cannabis. In excess of 60% of Americans — the highest percentage ever recorded —favor the legalization of cannabis.
This year the House passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, approved in a largely party-line vote of 220-204. The MORE Act, if enacted, would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, establish procedures for expunging previous convictions from the records of Americans prosecuted for cannabis offenses, and impose a tax on the sale of cannabis products. The MORE Act is currently stalled in the halls of the Senate.
Vivian McPeak is a Seattle-based social justice activist, media personality, and writer. Vivian spent nearly three decades as the president of Seattle Events, a Non-Profit Organization, producer of the Seattle HEMPFEST®, the world’s largest annual cannabis policy reform rally. The recipient of the High Times Magazine 2012 Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award and DOPE Magazine 2016 Emery Award for lifetime achievement, in 2016 Vivian was named one of the “50 Most Influential People” by Seattle Magazine. Vivian has appeared on numerous television and cable news networks, including FOX News, CNN, & NBC. McPeak is the host of Hempresent, a weekly radio podcast on Cannabis Radio with listeners on multiple continents.