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DEA Made Fewer Cannabis Seizures In 2018, But Also Made Far More Arrests

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Washington, DC: Federal agents seized fewer total cannabis plants in 2018, but made more arrests for cannabis-related offenses, according to annual data compiled by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

According to figures published in the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, the agency and its law enforcement partners confiscated an estimated 2.82 million cannabis plants nationwide in 2018. This total represents a 17 percent decline from the agency’s 2017 totals and a 66 percent decline since 2016.

“These federal eradication programs are a holdover from a bygone era,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “At a time when roughly one-quarter of the country resides in a jurisdiction where adult cannabis use is legal, and when members of Congress are openly discussing removing cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act, it is time for these federal anti-cannabis efforts to be put out to pasture and for federal agencies to take positions that more closely comport with cannabis’ rapidly changing cultural status in America.”

Driving much of the year-over-year decline was a nearly 40 percent reduction in the seizure of outdoor plants in California, which fell from 2.24 million in 2017 to 1.4 million in 2018. Adult-use retail sales of cannabis began in California in 2018.

Separate data published recently in the journal Ecological Economics identifies an association between the passage of adult-use cannabis regulatory laws and the reduction in the number of grow operations in national forests.

However, while the total number of DEA-seized plants fell in 2018, seizures of indoor cannabis plants nearly doubled – rising from 304,000 plants in 2017 to just under 600,000 in 2018. The agency also reported 5,632 cannabis-related arrests in 2018, a 20 percent increase over 2017 figures. The agency reported over $52 million in confiscated assets in 2018, more than twice what the agency reported in 2017.

Jurisdictions reporting the greatest number of total plant seizures in 2018 were California (1.8 million cannabis plants seized), Kentucky (418,000), Washington (112,000), Mississippi (70,000), and West Virginia (68,000).

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NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of cannabis by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high-quality cannabis that is safe, convenient, and affordable.

Find out more at www.norml.org and read our factsheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country at www.norml.org/marijuana/fact-sheets

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