Federal marijuana trafficking arrests on the decline in the US as legalization increases

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Research shows that the federal government is relaxing its policing efforts on cannabis

As has been the norm for the past few years, 2022 saw a clear decrease in federal marijuana trafficking arrest cases. The downward trend comes after the latest annual report from the US Sentencing Commission (USSC) was made public. Legalization continues to be the main contributor to the decline in this rate.

With the federal government focusing on other issues and more states legalizing cannabis medicinally and/or recreationally, prosecutions for cannabis-related cases have seen a notable drop over the years. According to the USSC findings, the number of federal marijuana trafficking offenders dropped from approximately 5,000 in 2013 to just under 806 last year.

Powder cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine trafficking cases did not follow the same trend, as they actually increased from 2021 to 2022. In addition, among the six types of drugs tracked by the agency, cannabis cases carry much lower sentences. The average sentence in a marijuana trafficking case is 33 months, while methamphetamine and fentanyl receive sentences of 94 months and 65 months, respectively.

Advocates have long asserted that increased legalization would go a long way toward helping adults turn less and less to illicit products, resulting in fewer arrests. This has become clearer over the years through federal reports such as these. The most recent USSC report clearly supports that idea by showing the gradual decline in federal marijuana trafficking cases as more states decide to welcome the legalization of the plant.