This week, the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s release of 2016 Federal Crime Statistics showed continuing good news for cannabis users. Since 2012, annual federal cannabis convictions have dropped by almost half. For the fifth straight year, federal cannabis convictions fell and now account for approximately thirty-five hundred convictions nationally.
Further, only 122 of the 3,534 cannabis convictions were for “simple possession,” and frequently those convictions came from a plea agreement for harsher charges. Ninety-seven percent of all federal cannabis cases involved plea agreements. The 2016 federal conviction numbers are only half of the 6,992 cannabis charges in 2012.
Washington Post writer Christopher Ingraham broke the news of the report’s release and linked the steady decline in annual conviction numbers to the legalizing movement’s 2012 victory of fully legalizing cannabis in Colorado. Next, the 2013 issuance of the legendary Cole Memo afforded state sanctioned programs protections provided the states respected federal goals.
At state and local levels however, cannabis convictions still account for over a half million ruined lives each year, though this is reportedly the lowest number of cannabis convictions in twenty years.
“Much of what we see is a function of the decisions made by individual U.S. attorneys. President Trump recently fired all the remaining holdovers from the Obama administration, meaning that a new batch of prosecutors — who may have different ideas about what marijuana sentences have to do with the pursuit of justice — will soon be taking their place.
On the other hand, at the same time cannabis convictions are in decline, federal convictions for heroin have doubled in the past ten years to just over 2,800 convictions for 2016. Meanwhile, the country struggles through the throes of a national opioid epidemic, which caused overdoses to quadruple this decade alone. Opioid overdoses now account for almost 50,000 deaths annually.
READ MORE: Here’s the latest data on the federal war on drugs by Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post