In 2010, Wisconsin law enforcement agencies reported 16,111 arrests for simple possession of marijuana, including both adult and juvenile offenders. The same year, Minnesota agencies reported only 7,453. With this one glaring exception, Wisconsin is not otherwise noticeably more aggressive about making drug arrests. Wisconsin also made more possession arrests for other drugs than did Minnesota, but the gap was much less pronounced (4,807 to 3,737), while Minnesota actually outstripped Wisconsin by a considerable margin when it came to arrests for drug trafficking (6,382 to 4,832). So, it is not as if our neighbors to the west have declared a general truce in the War on Drugs, while we have doggedly fought on. Rather, there seems something specific about marijuana possession that is differentiating the two states.
It seems unlikely that differences in marijuana use could account for such a large difference in the arrest rates. Indeed, based on the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, it appears that marijuana use in Minnesota is, if anything, slightly higher than in Wisconsin. So, the differences in arrest rates probably result to a significant degree from differences in police behavior. What drives those differences is not immediately apparent from any data that I have seen.
As I have observed in earlier posts, differences in criminal-justice outputs between the two states cry out for justification because the two states are so similar in population size and crime rate. (more…)