This report reviews data on marijuana arrests
in Massachusetts at the state, countly, and local levels.
Also examined are data on marijuana and other drug use, marijuana-related
drug treatment admissions referred by the criminal justice
system, criminal justice system costs, and clearance levels
for serious crimes in Massachusetts. The appendix of the report
provides detailed data on marijuana arrests by local police
agencies in Massachusetts.
In 2006 there were 9,124 arrests for marijuana-related offenses
in Massachusetts. Of these, or 86% were for possession (7,857),
the rest were for sales (1,267). Marijuana arrests have been
increasing over the last several years, for example arrests
averaged 8,986 during the preceding three years.
Marijuana arrests in the United States increased 3% annually
from 1994 to 2005. In Massachusetts marijuana arrests decreased
by 3.5% per year during this same period.
From 1992 to 2006, the criminal justice system doubled its
share of marijuana-related referrals for drug treatment services
from 26.89% in 1992 to 52.28% in 2006. With the sole exception
of 2002, the percentage referred by the criminal justice system
has increased every year.
Marijuana use is more widely used in New England than in the
rest of the United States. The prevalence of monthly marijuana
use in New England is 33% higher than in the United States
as a whole. Despite this relative popularity the total number
of annual users of marijuana in Massachusetts has declined
from 2003 to 2006, from 832,000 to 696,000 or from 15.45%
to 12.91% of the population over age 12.
Marijuana arrests disproportionately affect young males. Over
60% of all marijuana possession arrests are males between
the ages of 15 and 24. Including females in this age range,
people between the ages of 15 and 24 comprise 70% of all marijuana
possession arrests. The arrest rate for males age 15 to 19
is 1,371.38 per 100,000. The arrest rate for males age 20
to 24 is 1,005.95. Males age 15 to 19 comprised 7.22% of the
male population in Massachusetts in 2006, but this age group
accounts for 40.42% of all males arrested for marijuana possession.
Young adults aged 18 to 25 make up 39.16% of monthly marijuana
users. Young adults ages 18 to 34 account for 52.34% of marijuana
possession arrests. Adults 26 and older account for 50.12%
of marijuana users. Adults 25 and older account for 27.89%
of marijuana arrests.
A similar disparity exists with respect to race. Blacks account
for 6.89% of the population in Massachusetts but account for
23% of marijuana possession arrests. The prevalence of marijuana
use among blacks nationwide is 17% to 20% greater than among
whites, but this does not account for their disproportionate
share of marijuana possession arrests. The arrest rate for
marijuana possession for whites in Massachusetts is 115.92
while the arrest rate for marijuana possession for blacks
The greatest marijuana possession arrest rate for blacks in
Massachusetts is in Franklin County; the arrest rate for whites
in Franklin is 150.52 but for blacks it is 10 times greater,
1,032.25 per 100,000. In Bristol County the arrest rate for
marijuana possession for blacks is 772.34, in Barnstable 746.67,
and in Berkshire 677.12. In every county in the state the
arrest rate for blacks is significantly greater than for whites.
For many of the counties in Massachusetts, the smaller the
size of the black population the greater the arrest rate for
blacks for marijuana possession.
Thirty-two local police agencies account for 60% of all the
marijuana arrests in Massachusetts, including 6 State Police
agencies and 2 University police stations. The five leading
agencies providing the most marijuana arrests in the state
are Boston (1,757), New Bedford (392), the State Police in
Essex County (324), Springfield (246) and Worcester (241).
The total expense for the criminal justice system in Massachusetts
in 2005 is $3.4 billion. Estimates of the cost of marijuana
offenses (both possession and sales) in Massachusetts range
from $43 to $213.6 million.
Marijuana law enforcement diverts law enforcement resources
from protecting the public from violent and property related
crimes. During 2006 Massachusetts police were able to clear
49.1% of murders, 29.3% of rapes, 22.9% of robberies, 45%
of assaults, 9.9% of burglaries, 12.5% of larcenies, 8.9%
of motor vehicle thefts, and 22.8% of these 7 crimes combined.
Arrests in Massachusetts (PDF - 908KB)