Cannabis arrests are plunging, but they still happen in Oklahoma and elsewhere
The nationwide march toward cannabis legalization is driving down the number of people in the United States arrested for marijuana crimes. Pot-related arrests had been climbing in the years just prior to 2019 but lowered to about 545,000 cases that year, according to an analysis of newly compiled FBI statistics by the news site Reason.
The vast majority of arrests in 2019 were for possession of marijuana rather than the sale or manufacture of it. Although cannabis is still largely illegal in Texas, marijuana arrests there dropped by a stunning 50,000 last year over the previous year. That’s being attributed to newly loosened rules on hemp. Texas law enforcers are less inclined now to pay for costly lab tests required to distinguish hemp from criminally controlled substances.
Marijuana arrests around the nation have plummeted some 37 percent since 2007. California was the first state to begin taking steps toward cannabis legalization in 1996.
Although cannabis cases are dropping, hundreds of thousands of people in America are still being arrested each year despite three-dozen states now having some form of legalization. Not only that, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration seized more marijuana plants in 2019 than the previous year.
Here are some recent incidents from Oklahoma and elsewhere that illustrate the continuing dangers with being a cannabis user or entrepreneur in the United States whether it’s legalized in your state or not:
Osage County law enforcers in 2019 thought they had stumbled across the drug seizure of a lifetime when they pulled over a semi truck stuffed with 18,000 pounds (nine tons) of cannabis. In fact, the driver showed a manifest listing the material as non-intoxicating hemp that he was federally permitted to transport from Kentucky to Colorado. Authorities persisted even after tests showed only marginal amounts of THC. Four men were arrested and dragged through weeks of confusion before finally being let go. One confidential law enforcement source told the local media there was still opposition to marijuana in the area and that not every agency would have pursued the case so aggressively.
An Oklahoma City man last August was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for conspiring to distribute marijuana and engage in money laundering. Federal prosecutors had alleged that Tommy Nammixay illegally imported cannabis from Colorado Springs to Oklahoma City and distributed it across the state. Authorities seized 100 pounds of cannabis, $100,000 in cash, some four-dozen firearms, and a house.
Also in Oklahoma City last May, police say they uncovered two illegal grow operations that were hidden among legitimate lawn-care businesses. Operating on a tip, investigators say they found 600 plants, cannabis edibles, and packaged cannabis. A man questioned by police reportedly had a cultivation license at one time but it was expired. Investigators planned to review security footage to see who was purchasing cannabis from the operations.
Tulsa sheriff’s deputies charged a man in September with drug possession after pulling him over on Highway 75. They discovered 80 pounds of cannabis trimmings and leaves that the man said he had found in a dumpster. The deputies arrested him anyway.
Police in Panama City, Florida, seized 28 pounds of marijuana in January along with $13,000 in cash and five guns. In media interviews, the local police chief framed the cannabis as an inherent danger to public safety. “We want to make this the safest city for you to live, work, and play in.” Five people were charged with drug crimes, two of them for possession of less than 20 grams. Florida voters began legalizing cannabis in 2016.
Law enforcers in Norwalk, Connecticut, arrested two men in January and seized $2,000 after alleging that the pair had tried to ship two pounds of marijuana hidden inside of a karaoke machine. Also in Connecticut last November, local police seized almost 100 plants and charged at least one man with drug possession stemming from a “marijuana eradication operation” in several areas of the eastern part of the state. Connecticut voters began legalizing cannabis in 2012.
A Missouri man in late 2019 who was fully authorized to possess medical marijuana was nonetheless arrested by the state highway patrol after he was found with several ounces of cannabis. He was charged with a drug felony. Another Missouri man was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer when police searched his hospital room in 2019. He’d been ingesting THC pills for pain. But someone told police the man’s hospital room smelled like marijuana. Video of the officers searching his hospital room went viral. No marijuana was ever found. The man died five months later.
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