WASHINGTON - Marijuana accounts for almost half of all drug arrests in the United States, which spends $4 billion a year to catch, prosecute and incarcerate marijuana offenders, according to a report released yesterday.
Marijuana arrests more than doubled, from 327,000 to 697,000, from 1990 to 2002, while arrests for other drugs rose by only 10 percent, according to the report by the Sentencing Project, a think tank that promotes alternatives to imprisonment. In 2002, it said, marijuana arrests accounted for 45 percent of all drug arrests.
Ryan King, coauthor of the report, said arresting such large numbers at such cost was a poor investment in public safety and diverted resources from more serious crime problems.
Jennifer Devallance of the White House drug policy office said it was inaccurate to portray the war on drugs as focused on a single substance.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said in a report released yesterday that adults who first used marijuana before the age of 12 were twice as likely to suffer from mental illness later in life than those who used the drug at age 18 or older.
The data came from an annual survey on drug use that found 43 percent of U.S. adults - almost 91 million people - reported using marijuana at least once in their lives.