Report: Marijuana Arrest Rates Increasing In South Carolina

Even though arrest rates for all marijuana-related offenses have be dropping for several years in the United States as a whole, a recently published report indicates that the arrest rates in several individual states - particularly South Carolina - have actually been increasing significantly.

In fact, the report, which was authored by Jon Gettman, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Shenandoah University, discovered many circumstances in which South Carolina is bucking the national trend when it comes to marijuana arrests.

For example, while the number of marijuana-related arrests in the US experienced an average annual decrease of 3.8 percent from 2008 to 2012, total marijuana arrests in South Carolina increased, on average, 13.1 percent each year during the same period, which was the largest percentage increase for any state in the country. In addition, arrests in South Carolina for marijuana possession alone increased 12.4 percent, on average, each year from 2008 to 2012 - again, the largest percentage rise in the US.

When broken down even further, these numbers indicate that South Carolina had an average marijuana arrest rate of more than 381 arrests per 100,000 people in 2012, compared to less than 239 for the entire US. Moreover, the marijuana arrest rate in South Carolina increased an average of 11.6 percent every year from 2008 to 2012, which, not surprisingly, was once again the largest percentage increase in the country.

Changing attitudes and current marijuana laws in South Carolina

As referenced above, marijuana arrest rates continue to drop throughout the country despite increases in South Carolina. Additionally, several national polls indicate that public opinion regarding the use and legalization of the drug is quickly changing. Indeed, some polls show that a majority of Americans believe that the recreational use of marijuana should be permitted, with even more acknowledging its legalization is an eventual certainty.

However, these changing attitudes, even if shared by many in South Carolina, will not make the current criminal penalties associated with marijuana-related offenses any less severe in the Palmetto State. For instance, under South Carolina law:

  • The possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine
  • The second conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is punishable by up to one year jail and a $1,000 fine
  • The possession with intent to distribute of less than 10 pounds of marijuana is punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine
  • The trafficking of more than 10 pounds of marijuana, but less than 100 pounds, is punishable by one to 10 years in prison
  • The trafficking of more than 100 pounds of marijuana is punishable by a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years in prison

Keep in mind, these penalties represent just a small sampling of what those accused of marijuana-related offenses can face in South Carolina. Accordingly, it is important to do everything possible to ensure your rights are protected if ever accused of such crimes, which can often include a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can fully explain your rights and help determine what your best options may be.

South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense LawyersSouth Carolina Association of Criminal Defense LawyersSouth Carolina BarSouth Carolina BarSouth Carolina Association for JusticeSouth Carolina Association for JusticeRichland County Bar AssociationRichland County Bar Association2015 Legal Elite of the Midlands2015 Legal Elite of the Midlands