News Release

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Tel. 202.483.8751 - Fax 202.483.0057 - E-mail - Internet

For Additional Information, Contact: Allen St. Pierre at (202) 483-8751 or Keith Stroup at (202) 483-5500.  Complete Study Available Online (

Risk Of Marijuana Arrest Varies Greatly From State To State, County To County

        Washington, DC:  The risk of being arrested for marijuana smoking is far greater in some states than others, and far greater in some counties within a state than in other counties within that same state.  A marijuana smoker in Alaska or New York, for example, is three times more likely to be arrested than a marijuana smoker in Pennsylvania, North Dakota or Hawaii.  Similarly, a smoker in New York City is nine times more likely to be arrested than a smoker in Nassau County, New York; and a smoker in Trinity County, California, is nine times more likely to be arrested than a smoker in Lassen County, California.
     These are the conclusions from a new study released today by the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC.  According to the study's author, public policy analyst Jon Gettman, Ph.D., 38% of all marijuana arrests in the United States, nearly 700,000 each year, occur in only 10 counties.  The complete study, including state and national maps, Dr. Gettman's commentary and analysis, and charts ranking the 50 states and counties within each state, is available online (
     Gettman reviewed county and state marijuana arrest data nationwide from 1995-97.  Detailed data were not available for the District of Columbia, Kansas and Vermont.  Arrest counts and rates are provided in the report for 2,951 of the nation's 3,140 counties, accounting for 95.5% of the total estimated marijuana arrests for the year.
     "While total marijuana arrests appear to be leveling off, they remain at the highest levels in United States history, both in absolute numbers and in terms of arrest rates," Gettman said.  "The greater the level of arrests the more important it has become for the government to justify these arrests and the accompanying economic and social costs."

        County Data

        Fulton County, Georgia claimed the most marijuana arrests per 100,000 population (775.76) in counties over 250,000 people, with Douglas County, Nebraska (769.82) a close second (table 1).
        Smaller counties had the highest marijuana arrest rates in the country.  Texas contained five counties in the top 10 arrest rates and 12 in the top 25.  The national average marijuana arrest rate was 256 per 100,000 people.  Hudspeth, Texas, a county with a population of 3,079 on the U.S. and Mexican border, had the highest arrest rate in the country at 6,430.66 per 100,000 residents -- about one out of every 15 people.  Daggett County, Utah, a popular tourist area near both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, with a population of only 794, had the second highest arrest rate in the country at (5,289.67) (table 2).

        Statewide Data

        In 1997, Alaska had the highest arrest rate with 417.71 people arrested on marijuana charges per 100,000 population, followed closely by New York at 404.59 (table 3).  The marijuana arrest rate was the lowest in Pennsylvania with 125.57 per 100,000 population, followed by North Dakota (131.05) and Hawaii (134.37) (table 4).
     Police in New York state by far arrested the highest number of people on marijuana charges with 73,380, followed by California (58,068) and Texas (54,731) (table 5).  The state with the Lowest number of marijuana arrests was North Dakota (840), followed by Delaware with 1,376 arrests (table 6).
        "This report will help elected officials, other policy makers and the general public better understand the massive scope of marijuana prohibition and the enormous fiscal and social costs of continuing to arrest responsible marijuana smokers," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director.  "This study refutes, on a county by county basis, the claim that 'no one gets arrested for marijuana smoking anymore.'  The uneven enforcement patterns among the states, and between counties within the same state, suggests selective enforcement, racial profiling and other unfair practices may play a role in determining who gets arrested in America on marijuana charges."
     The NORML Foundation is a Washington, DC based non-profit educational foundation that works to help the country better understand the costs of marijuana prohibition and the benefits of alternative policies, and provides legal support and assistance to victims of the current laws.

Table 1

Highest Arrest Rate Per 100,000 (counties over 250,000)

Fulton, GA 775.76
Douglas, NE 769.82
Guilford, NC 696.58
New York, NY 646.75
E. Baton Rouge, LA 634.48
Bronx, NY 633.10
Queens, NY 632.59
Richmond, NY 632.51
Kings, NY 632.43
Jefferson, TX 624.06


Table 2

Highest Arrest Rate Per 100,000 (counties over 100,000)

Hudspeth, TX 6,430.66
Daggett, UT 5,289.67
Brooks, TX 4,988.56
Sutton, TX 2,948.94
Massac, IL 2,836.14
Kimble, TX 2,492.57
Toole MT 2,469.85
Mason, IL 2,419.07
Jim Hogg, TX 2,356.22
Worcester, MD 2,267.35


Table 3

Highest Arrest Rate Per 100,000

Alaska 417.71
New York 404.59
Nebraska 384.25
Mississippi 379.46
S. Carolina 379.44
Arizona 357.69
Georgia 337.99
Utah 330.50
Louisiana 327.53
Arkansas 318.69


Table 4

Lowest Arrest Rate Per 100,000

Pennsylvania 125.57
North Dakota 131.05
Hawaii 134.37
New Hampshire 158.99
Florida 162.41
Montana 179.29
California 179.96
West Virginia 182.98
Massachusetts 183.10
Michigan 183.57


Table 5

Highest Total Marijuana Arrests

New York 73,380
California 58,068
Texas 54,731
Illinois 33,706
Georgia 25,302
Ohio 24,535
Florida 23,800
N. Carolina 23,008
New Jersey 22,981
Virginia 17,966


Table 6

Lowest Total Marijuana Arrests

North Dakota 840
Delaware 1,376
Montana 1,576
Hawaii 1,595
South Dakota 1,662
Alaska 1,865
Rhode Island 2,223
Idaho 2,854
Maine 3,310


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