Illinois rated toughest state in the US for marijuana arrests

Although public sentiment - and policy - has been shifting in much of the country with regard to marijuana use, Illinois takes a harder stance on the drug than many other states. In fact, it may even take the hardest stance of all.

According to a recent Washington Post report, Illinois is the strictest state in the U.S. in terms of arrests for marijuana possession. The report, which relied on data compiled by Addiction-Treatment.com from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, showed that Illinois police made more than 30,000 arrests for every 100,000 marijuana users in the state in 2012 - a higher per-user arrest rate than any other state in the nation.

Even New York, which placed second in the rankings and has taken an increasingly tough stance on marijuana use in recent years, had a substantially lower rate of about 17,000 arrests per 100,000 marijuana users. At the other end of the spectrum, Massachusetts was ranked as the least-strict state regarding marijuana use and possession, with just 275 arrests per 100,000 users.

Variations in state law affect drug arrest rates

To some degree, the variation in marijuana arrest rates can be attributed to differences in drug laws at the state level. Although only two U.S. states have explicitly legalized recreational marijuana use, many others have relaxed their marijuana policies in recent years, for instance by legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes or decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The data analysis also showed that Illinois has the highest per-user arrest rate for all illegal drugs - not just marijuana. For every 100,000 illegal drug users in the state, Illinois police made nearly 47,000 arrests for drug possession, drug trafficking and other drug-related offenses in 2012. Maryland placed second in this ranking, with about 37,000 drug arrests per 100,000 users. New Hampshire was ranked last with only 174 arrests per 100,000 illegal drug users.

Protect your legal rights if you are arrested

Particularly in states like Illinois, where even relatively minor drug offenses can lead to harsh consequences for those who are convicted, it is important for anyone facing drug crime charges to get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If you are arrested for marijuana possession or any other drug-related offense in Illinois, protect yourself by exercising your right to remain silent until you have had a chance to speak with an attorney.