New Report: Half Of All Marijuana Arrests In Montana Are For One Gram Or Less

A new study analyzes 2007-2018 FBI arrest statistics and estimates that each marijuana arrest costs the state over $10,000

MONTANA:  New Approach Montana, the 2020 ballot campaign backing CI-118 and I-190, has published a report analyzing marijuana arrests in Montana from 2007 through 2018. The report is based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program and is authored by Jonathan Gettman, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Shenandoah University.

The report notes that, “from 2009 to 2018, Montana law enforcement officers arrested 13,715 people for marijuana offenses, 95% of them for possession.” Using figures from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the report also analyses the costs associated with these arrests and estimates the state spends $10,679 per arrest. The 56-page document provides detailed data tables showing trends in arrests, racial disparities in arrest rates, and arrests by counties.

Ken Linzey, a retired Montana corrections officer, commented, “This report provides the data to verify what many of us in law enforcement already know to be true anecdotally: arresting adults for marijuana is a colossal waste of resources. On top of that, we’re needlessly ruining a lot of young people’s lives — in many cases for less than a gram of marijuana. The current system simply doesn’t serve the people of Montana.”

The report’s other key findings include:

  • In 2018, roughly one out of 20 of all arrests in Montana was marijuana-related.

  • Over 80% of all marijuana arrests, including those for sales, involve seven grams or less.

  • Montanans under the age of 25 accounted for 62% of marijuana arrests in the 10-year period from 2007 to 2016.

  • The vast majority (98.7%) of marijuana violations in Montana from 2007 to 2016 were not associated with other criminal offenses.

  • In 2018 the marijuana possession arrest rate in Montana for Native Americans was 1.9 times higher than the rate for whites. For Black Montanans, the arrest rate is 5.3 times greater than for whites.

  • The report notes that individuals with an arrest record for marijuana can face long-term consequences, such as difficulties in getting a job, accessing affordable housing, and qualifying for college loans.