The number of people sentenced for federal marijuana-related crimes has dropped for the fifth year in a row, according to a data released by the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) last week.
A total of 3,534 offenders received sentences for federal marijuana crimes in 2016, according to the study. Out of them, 3,398 were involved in marijuana trafficking.
In 2015, the total number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation was 643,121 and number of those who were arrested for possession only were 574,641 (89 percent), according to a study by Drug Policy Alliance.
According to Pew Research Center’s 2015 study, nearly half (49 percent) of Americans said they had tried marijuana, a 37 percent increase from 2014, when the total percentage was 12. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S., according to a 2012 report by National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
In the study by USSC, it said: “Marijuana offenders were nearly the same age at both sentencing and at release as drug trafficking offenders as a whole. The median marijuana offender was 30 years old at the time of sentencing and 33 years old at the time of release, compared to median ages of 30 and 34 for all drug trafficking offenders.”
The reason for the drop in the number of federal marijuana sentences could likely be the legalization of recreational marijuana. In 2012, Colorado and Washington had become the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. The data shows a sharp drop in the number of federal marijuana sentences the following year, down from 6,992 to 4,942.
But even where recreational marijuana is legal, the sale and use of marijuana for any purpose— recreational, medical or otherwise, remains a crime at the federal level. In 2013, the Justice Department issued a guidance giving federal prosecutors the liberty to ignore certain marijuana offences, given that such behavior was otherwise in compliance with an applicable state law.