Election Day message: The nonsense of marijuana busts

Voters in Washington and Colorado say no to the long, costly war on pot

Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released its accounting of all arrests made by law enforcement agencies across the fruited plain. Cops and federal agents made 12,408,899 arrests in the USA in 2011. No wonder we're known around the world as Incarceration Nation.

Let's walk through the breakdown of that big number:

•Of the total, 534,704 arrests were for violent crimes, and that number was down about 5 percent from 2010.

•Driving under the influence accounted for 1.21 million arrests.

•Larceny and theft: 1.26 million

Drug abuse violations: 1.5 million.

•Three-quarters of all people arrested were males. Nearly 70 percent of the arrested were white, 28 percent were black, and the rest were other races.

Let's go back to drug arrests because that's always the biggest single category in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report.

Here's how the narc stuff breaks down:

The sale or manufacture of controlled dangerous substances — heroin, cocaine, marijuana and other "dangerous, non-narcotic drugs" (barbiturates and benzedrine), and "synthetic or manufactured drugs" (Demerol, methadone) — accounted for just 18 percent of the 1.5 million drug arrests last year.

That means the overwhelming majority of them — 82 percent — were for possession.

The FBI breaks that number down, too.

Of all the drug arrests, 16 percent were for heroin or cocaine possession, 17 percent were for possession of "dangerous, non-narcotic drugs," and about 5 percent were for possession of "synthetic or manufactured drugs."

Last, but certainly not least, were arrests for marijuana possession. They accounted for 43 percent of all drug arrests in 2011.

So, just in case you were operating under the impression that the law had backed off the whole grass-possession thing, there it is: More than four out of 10 of all narcotics arrests made in United States were for people having marijuana in their possession.

And one more breakdown for you:

Arrests for marijuana possession accounted for just about half of all drug arrests in the Northeast and in the South.

So that's what our cops spend a lot of their time doing — arresting people for pot, hundreds of thousands of times per year.

They do a lot of other stuff, of course, and a lot of the other stuff actually protects people from bad guys, and thank you very much.

But this whole business of arresting people for smoking pot — one huge waste of time and money.

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