Even as more states like Kentucky move toward the legalization of medical cannabis, marijuana arrests continue to rise. According to the FBI, someone is arrested on marijuana charges every 48 seconds in the United States. In 2017, there were 659,700 marijuana arrests. There were 653,249 in 2016. According to the report, the enforcement uptick was not marked by a rise in arrests of dealers or producers but by more arrests for simple possession. This comes despite the protests that have risen against these types of arrests.

Across the country, 599,282 of the 2017 arrests — all but 60,000 — were marijuana possession arrests. This number rose from 587,516 possession arrests in 2016. In fact, sales and manufacturing arrests actually declined, from 65,734 in 2016 to 60,418 in 2017. Over 40 percent of all drug arrests were related to marijuana. On Election Day 2016, four more states voted to legalize marijuana — Nevada, Maine, California and Massachusetts. However, drug-possession arrests have continually been highlighted as a troubling aspect of the American criminal justice system.

Advocates noted that the country is in the middle of a deadly opioid epidemic that causes over 100 deaths daily. These critics question why marijuana enforcement would be a priority at a time when there is a real public health hazard at stake. It has also been noted that 20 percent of the American population lives in states where cannabis has been fully legalized.

People in Kentucky who are arrested by police for marijuana possession or other drug offenses may face serious consequences, including a criminal record, hefty fines or even jail time. A drug conviction can affect other aspects of a person’s life, including their education, housing or job prospects. A criminal defense lawyer can help a defendant fight back against drug charges and avoid a conviction.