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Drug arrests increasing despite change in consensus

Maryland residents should know that while President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have indicated that they intend to restart the drug war, drug arrests have continued to increase since before Trump was sworn into office. In fact, there were 1.57 million drug-related arrests in 2016, a number that represented a 5.63 percent increase from 2015.

Approximately 85 percent of all drug arrests are simply for possession. About 41 percent of all drug arrests involved marijuana, with the majority of those arrests being for possession. Even though there has been an increase in drug-related arrests, the majority of Americans no longer believe that marijuana should be illegal. In fact, the scientific and political consensus is also turning to the opinion that those who are otherwise law-abiding should not be taken into custody for simple drug possession.

Drug possession laws are often enforced in a discriminatory manner. For example, blacks make up just 13 percent of the American population and use drugs at the same rate as other groups. However, they make up 29 percent of those arrested for drug-related reasons. They also make up 35 percent of the state prison population involved in drug possession arrests.

Even minor drug charges could have a major impact on a person's future. Depending on circumstances, a defendant who is convicted on charges could be sentenced to jail and be required to pay fines. A criminal law attorney could potentially challenge the charges if the prosecution has insufficient evidence or cannot prove that the drugs belonged to the accused person. Otherwise, the attorney may negotiate an alternative sentence that includes participation in a rehabilitation program.

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