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The 5 States With The Highest Marijuana Arrest Rates

Believe it or not, the state with the highest marijuana arrest rate doesn’t contain a major metropolitan city. Nor is it located in the Bible Belt or any other states where marijuana rights are contentiously fought. According to an analysis of marijuana arrest date highlighted by NJ Advance Media, Wyoming had the highest cannabis arrest rate in 2016 across the country.

By sheer volume, Texas and New York lead the nation in total number of marijuana arrests. That shouldn’t be too surprising because in 2016 Texas and New York boasted a population of 27 million and 19.7 million people, respectively.

But the third state on that list could surprise you. That would be New Jersey, which now appears on the verge of legalizing recreational marijuana under new governor Phil Murphy. Murphy ran under a pro-marijuana platform, vowing to listen to the voice of the people and legalize recreational cannabis if elected. However, the state’s former governor, Chris Christie, was a staunch opponent against marijuana of any kind, often espousing toxic rhetoric and false narratives about the plant.

New Jersey is also second in marijuana arrest rates throughout the country. One criminal justice professor theorized to part of the explanation revolved around how the state’s police divisions are structured. The latest available date from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that New Jersey is among the top states for police officers per capita. Meaning residents could interact with more police activity than usual, leading to more marijuana arrests.

You can view the states with the five highest marijuana arrest rates below.


  1. Wyoming

  • Possession arrests in 2016: 2,248
  • Distribution arrests in 2016: 173
  •  Total marijuana arrests in 2016: 2,421
  •  Population: 583,029
  •  Arrest rate (per 100,000 people): 415.2
  1. New Jersey

  • Possession arrests in 2016: 32,263
  • Distribution arrests in 2016: 3,437
  •  Total marijuana arrests in 2016: 35,700
  •  Population: 8.9 million
  •  Arrest rate (per 100,000 people): 400.4
  1. South Dakota

  • Possession arrests in 2016: 3,116
  • Distribution arrests in 2016: 150
  •  Total marijuana arrests in 2016: 3,266
  •  Population: 851,058
  •  Arrest rate (per 100,000 people): 383.8
  1. New Hampshire

  • Possession arrests in 2016: 3,890
  • Distribution arrests in 2016: 1,114
  •  Total marijuana arrests in 2016: 5,004
  •  Population: 1.3 million
  •  Arrest rate (per 100,000 people): 376.9
  1. Missouri

  • Possession arrests in 2016: 21,277
  • Distribution arrests in 2016: 1,185
  •  Total marijuana arrests in 2016: 22,462
  •  Population: 6.1 million
  •  Arrest rate (per 100,000 people): 370.7



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