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One In Eight Federal Drug Prisoners Serving Time For Marijuana Offenses


jail prison daniel chong deaBy Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

Over twelve percent of federal drug prisoners are incarcerated for marijuana-related violations, according to data compiled by US Bureau of Prisons and the United State’s Sentencing Commission and published by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Of the 94,678 federal inmates incarcerated for a drug violation as their most serious offense, 12.4 percent (11,533 persons) are serving time for violating marijuana laws. Most marijuana offenders are imprisoned for trafficking violations. The average length of prison time for those incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses is 88 months.

Nearly half (44.3 percent) of federal marijuana inmates are offenders with minimal criminal histories who have not previously served time in prison. Eight-five percent of marijuana offenders did not possess a firearm.

Over a third (36.5 percent) of federal marijuana prisoners are age 40 or older. Thirty-five percent of federal marijuana prisoners are not US citizens.

The percentage of marijuana-related federal prisoners has remained virtually unchanged over the past decade.

Full text of the BJS report, “Drug offenders in federal prison: Estimates of characteristics based on linked data, is online here.

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Johnny Green


  1. Make it legal ….. Tax the heck out of it ….. If you fail to pay your taxes, well we all know how they got Al Capone!

  2. You could just as easily say every federal prisoner is there for breathing air and drinking water. Im sure most did that along with serious crimes.

  3. Defund the DEA and let’s move on to a sensible drug policy. Legalize cannabis and end that prohibition completely, just like alcohol. As for the other scheduled drugs, it’s a social issue and not a criminal issue. Stop putting people in prison for having vices. Treatment centers should be more available and voluntary… no prison for drug use.

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