WASHINGTON Oct 12 U.S. police make over 1.25
million arrests a year for drug possession, more than twice the
number for violent crimes, and about half of the arrests are for
marijuana, two human rights groups said on Wednesday in a call
for sweeping drug decriminalization.
The 196-page report by the American Civil Liberties Union
and Human Rights Watch said the "war on drugs" was a failure,
with rates of drug use unchanged since President Richard Nixon
launched the campaign more than 40 years ago.
States and the federal government should decriminalize the
use and possession of drugs for personal use and focus instead
on prevention and reducing harm, the report said.
"These wide-scale arrests have destroyed countless lives
while doing nothing to help people who struggle with
dependence," Tess Borden, the report's author, said in a
The report said nearly half of all drug possession arrests
in 2015, or more than 574,000, were for marijuana, based on
Federal Bureau of Investigation figures.
In the same year, there were 506,000 arrests for violent
crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault, FBI data
showed. Four times as many people are arrested for possessing
drugs than distributing them, the report said.
Even though whites are more likely than black people to use
illicit drugs in the course of their lives, adult
African-Americans are more than 2.5 times more likely to be
arrested for drug possession, the report said.
The report came as five U.S. states - Massachusetts, Maine,
California, Arizona and Nevada - prepared to vote on Nov. 8 on
legalizing recreational use of marijuana. Four states and the
District of Columbia allow possession of small amounts for
A growing number of Americans back legalizing marijuana,
with 57 percent saying it should be made legal in a Pew Research
Center poll released on Wednesday.
The report by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch on the impact
of drug possession arrests was based on more than 365 interviews
between October 2015 and March 2016 that included drug
offenders, family members and prosecutors. It also used data
provided in response to public information requests.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Andrew Hay)