"Although no amount of policy analysis can resolve disagreements about how much punishment drug offenses deserve, research does make clear that some strategies for reducing drug use and crime are more effective than others and that imprisonment ranks near the bottom of that list. And surveys have found strong public support for changing how states and the federal government respond to drug crimes.
"One primary reason for sentencing an offender to prison is deterrence—conveying the message that losing one’s freedom is not worth whatever one gains from committing a crime. If imprisonment were an effective deterrent to drug use and crime, then, all other things being equal, the extent to which a state sends drug offenders to prison should be correlated with certain drug-related problems in that state. The theory of deterrence would suggest, for instance, that states with higher rates of drug imprisonment would experience lower rates of drug use among their residents.
Total Annual Arrests in the US by Year and Type of Offense
In 2015, law enforcement agencies in the US made 10,797,088 arrests for all offenses, of which 1,488,707 were drug arrests, 505,681 were for violent offenses, and 1,463,213 were for property offenses. A total of 643,121 marijuana arrests were made that year, of which 64,480 were for trafficking or sales, and 574,641 were for simple possession of marijuana.