Total Annual Arrests in the US by Type of Offense

In 2020, law enforcement agencies in the US made an estimated 7,632,473 arrests for all offenses, of which 1,155,610 were drug arrests.

Although the intent of a 'War on Drugs' may have been to target drug smugglers and 'King Pins,' of the 1,155,610 arrests for drug law violations in 2020, 86.7% (1,001,914) were for mere possession of a controlled substance. Only 13.3% (153,696) were for the sale or manufacturing of a drug. Further, 30.3% of drug arrests in 2020 were for marijuana offenses -- a total of 350,150. Of those, an estimated 317,793 arrests (27.5% of all drug arrests) were for marijuana possession alone. By contrast in 2000, a total of 734,497 Americans were arrested for marijuana offenses, of which 646,042 (40.9%) were for possession alone.

Table: Total Annual Arrests in the US by Year and Type of Offense, 1996-2020


FBI Uniform Crime Report. Crime in the United States 2020 - Arrests and Arrest Table: Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations. Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, September 2021.
"Crime in the United States - 2000," FBI Uniform Crime Reports (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2001), p. 216, Tables 29 and 4.1.