According to FBI crime statistics, in 2011 there were 663,032 arrests for pot possession across the U.S., more than all violent crime arrests combined (534,704). These latest figures are consistent with a 30-year shift in law enforcement priorities beginning in 1980 when there were well over 100,000 more arrests of violent offenders than pot smokers (475,160 for violence compared to 338,664 for pot), meaning in that three-decade stretch pot busts nearly doubled while violent crime arrests increased by less than 100K.
Perhaps surprising to many, pot possession arrests first surpassed those for violence during Bill Clinton's second term in the late 1990s, even though the former president remains lauded by most progressives. As noted by the Huffington Post, the estimated annual cost of all these cannabis user arrests is north of $10 billion dollars a year nationwide – money that surely could be better spent elsewhere.
While it is true that marijuana possession arrests are up because pot usage has increased (especially among young people) and violent crime arrests are down because of an encouraging corresponding drop in violent offenses in recent years, the numbers still suggest the priority of law enforcement is not conquering violent crime (the most heinous of criminal acts) but continuing to criminalize a medicinal herb during a time in our culture when strict gun control measures are being seriously considered in response to tragic violent crimes and pot, both medicinal and recreational, is being legalized in virtually every election.