Even as more states legalize, 6,606 marijuana-related arrests were made last year. This was a 25% increase over the prior year when the feds reported 4,992 arrests, according to data compiled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. In addition to the arrests, the feds confiscated about 5.53 million cultivated cannabis plants in 2021, a 20% jump from 2020.
Taken from the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program Statistical Report, these figures are “the highest reported by the agency since 2011,” when it made an estimated 8,500 marijuana-related arrests and confiscated more than 6.7 million plants, said a news release announcing the data.
On the thriving illicit markets that are no doubt related to these arrests, Morgan Fox, political director of NORML, a nonprofit that advocates for marijuana laws reform, doubled down on the need for federal legality while citing the problems that continue to beset the legal market.
“The fact that these interdiction efforts are growing — at great cost to the taxpayer — despite increasing momentum for legalization is a testament to the failure of federal prohibition and unnecessarily burdensome state regulatory policies,” said Fox in a public statement. “Lack of access to banking services and capital, high barriers to entry into legal cannabis markets, and exorbitant tax rates at all levels of government are clearly hampering the ability of licensed cannabis businesses to compete with the unregulated market. The solutions to this situation are beyond obvious at this point, and they don’t involve law enforcement officers putting themselves at risk by dropping out of helicopters or conducting armed raids.”
Also, the report noted that the feds and their local partners seized $103 million in assets in 2021 as part of the cannabis eradication/suppression program. This was more than twice the amount seized in 2020.
And, once again, most of the plant seizures (86%) and arrests (60%) happened in California. The feds also noted the confiscation of large quantities of cultivated plants in Kentucky (317,621) and in Oklahoma (158,124).
The DCE/SP began funding eradication programs in Hawaii and California in 1979, and has since branched out into most every state.