DEA: Fewer marijuana seizures but more arrests
According to figures published in the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, the agency and its law enforcement partners confiscated an estimated 2.82 million marijuana plants nationwide in 2018. This total represents a 17 percent decline from the agency’s 2017 totals and a 66 percent decline since 2016.
Driving much of the year-over-year decline was a nearly 40 percent reduction in the seizure of outdoor plants in California, which fell from 2.24 million in 2017 to 1.4 million in 2018. Adult-use retail sales of cannabis began in California in 2018.
Separate data published recently in the journal Ecological Economics identifies an association between the passage of adult-use marijuana regulatory laws and the reduction in the number of grow operations in national forests.
However, while the total number of DEA-seized plants fell in 2018, seizures of indoor cannabis plants nearly doubled – rising from 304,000 plants in 2017 to just under 600,000 in 2018. The agency also reported 5,632 marijuana-related arrests in 2018, a 20 percent increase over 2017 figures. The agency reported over $52 million in confiscated assets in 2018, more than twice what the agency reported in 2017.
Jurisdictions reporting the greatest number of total plant seizures in 2018 were California (1.8 million marijuana plants seized), Kentucky (418,000), Washington (112,000), Mississippi (70,000), and West Virginia (68,000).
Senate banking committee takes up cannabis reform
Members of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs were scheduled to hear testimony this week regarding the need to provide greater access to financial services for state-licensed marijuana-related businesses.
The Senate hearing, titled “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives,” marks the first time that members of the Senate have officially considered the need for marijuana-related banking reform.
Federal law and regulations currently discourage banks and other financial institutions from working directly with state-licensed cannabis businesses. According to recently published data from the Treasury Department, fewer than 500 financial institutions nationwide currently provide services to cannabis-specific establishments.
Members of the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Consumer Protections and Financial Institutions previously heard testimony on the issue in February.
Legislation (HR 1595 | S 1200 – The SAFE Banking Act) is pending in both chambers to create new federal protections for financial operators who work with state-compliant marijuana businesses. The House version of the Act, which was passed out of Committee earlier this year, has more than 200 congressional co-sponsors while the Senate version has 31 cosponsors.
Wisc. sees dramatic racial disparity in marijuana arrests
MADISON, Wisc. — African Americans in Wisconsin are four times more likely than whites to be arrested for violating marijuana possession laws, according to an analysis of 2018 arrest data by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
The finding is consistent with those of prior analyses. According to a nationwide study by the American Civil Liberties Union, “[O]n average, a Black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though Blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates.”
The Center’s analysis also reported a slight increase in total marijuana possession arrests in Wisconsin in 2018 to just under 15,000. The counties with the highest percentages of possession arrests per 1,000 people are Green Lake (6.4), Walworth (5.4), Dunn (5.3), Monroe (5.1), and Marinette (5.0). Under state law, low-level marijuana possession offenses are classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Commenting on the state-specific study, University of Wisconsin-Madison sociology professor Pamela Oliver said: “The only possibility for these statistics to happen is for police to be stopping blacks more than whites. … We know the usage patterns are not different, so if you’re generating a difference in arrests, it has to be differential policing.”
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has proposed eliminating both criminal and civil penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses, stating, “[W]e are spending too much money prosecuting and incarcerating people – and often persons of color – for non-violent crimes related to possessing small amounts of marijuana.”
Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.