A new study has found that over 70% of recent seizures of illicit drugs in the United States are marijuana related, painting a picture of the American drug landscape and a mis-prioritized, failed, war on drugs.
The study, “Busted: Analyzing America’s Most Recent Drug Hauls,” looked at major drug seizures as reported by over 1,500 media outlets in the United States during a 13 month period from March 2012 – April 2013.
The study found that of the 5,000 most recent drug busts reported in the news, 70.5% involved marijuana — 140% more than all cocaine (13%), heroin (10%) and methamphetamine (6%) busts combined. The study did not look at prescription medication abuse or other designer drugs, only the “big four,” which together account for 69% of the seized drugs analyzed by American forensic labs each year.
The study found high concentrations of methamphetamine and meth labs in the Midwest, an abundance of heroin in the Northeast, especially in the tri-state area, and a lot of cannabis in California and North Dakota. Cocaine busts were virtually non-existent in Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Montana and North Dakota, and in a reality check for Breaking Bad fans, New Mexico wasn’t anywhere near the top ten in meth busts.
The study’s author, John Millward, admits that the study represents only a fraction of the total number of seizures made by the DEA, FBI, U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Border Patrol on a yearly basis, but because each of the busts were large enough to be reported in the news, the study provides “a fresh perspective on American’s war on drugs.”
But DEA drug seizure stats confirm that, of the ‘big four’, cannabis was far and away the most widely seized drug in 2012 (780,000 lbs), followed by cocaine (79,000 lbs), calling into question America’s priorities in the “War on Drugs.”
“It’s the sheer volume of cannabis seizures that is a cause for concern,” writes Millward. “What kind of concern depends on whether you feel marijuana laws are necessary or not.”
America’s attitudes towards cannabis have been reflected in progressive marijuana law reform over the past 25 years, with medical marijuana now allowed in over 20 states, criminal penalties for possession removed in 17 states, and the recreational use of marijuana by adults legalized in two states.
But just because American voters are progressively changing marijuana laws, police — especially federal authorities — have been reluctant to follow suit.
For example California, who legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and has since decriminalized personal possession of small amounts, leads the US in the sheer volume of cannabis busts, thanks in no small part to the US Attorney’s ongoing crusade against medical marijuana, utilizing federal law enforcement resources to raid, shutter, and charge medical marijuana providers with federal drug trafficking charges.
There is no doubt that cannabis is America’s most commonly used illicit substance. But, as this study shows, it is also the largest distraction for American law enforcement from their mission to “protect and serve.”