In recent years, public support for the legalization of marijuana, recreationally and/or medically, has grown considerably. States have passed laws legalizing it to varying degrees, including Pennsylvania, and people are generally more comfortable discussing or engaging in casual or medicinal use.

However, despite these shifting attitudes, marijuana arrests increased between 2016 and 2017, according to the FBI. While the increase may seem small – just over 6,400 – it represents an arrest once every 48 seconds. It also suggests that law enforcement efforts are in contrast to public perception and concerns.

Law enforcement running counter to public opinion

According to reports, police made more than 650,000 arrests for marijuana in 2017, which represents over 40 percent of all drug arrests. This includes arrests for opioids, which are currently one of the most troubling drug-related epidemics facing the country.

Further, many people would argue that possession charges are less troubling than those involving manufacture or distribution. However, arrests for those crimes fell by more than 5,000 between 2016 and 2017.

In other words, arrests for minor marijuana-related offenses increased, even though other drugs and other offenses are more concerning and potentially dangerous.

What this means for individuals

Unfortunately, this means that individuals in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. continue to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses at high rates, even when there are state laws in place that allow use, and even though other drugs pose a greater threat to users.

And the people convicted or pleading guilty to such offenses continue to face harsh penalties that have the potential to ruin their professional and personal lives. As such, it remains critical for anyone facing marijuana charges – even when they seem minor – to have legal counsel to defend against drug-related allegations.