The Drug-Crime Connection Remains Strong. Marijuana is the Prominent Drug

Whenever we post statistics about the marijuana-crime connection, we get a ton of e-mails from disbelievers who feel that any connection is completely overblown.

The principal research for the marijuana-crime connection is the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM II) program (see below) which consistently states that, out of all illegal drugs, marijuana has the strongest connection to criminal activity.

Please note that there is considerable additional research stating that the marijuana-crime connection is strong.

We have constantly stated that we do not want arrests or incarceration for personal use of marijuana; but we are equally adamant that we do not support the legalization of marijuana. There are millions of people who simply cannot handle anything stronger than aspirin; they engage in stupid and deadly acts that do nothing but harm society.

Yes, marijuana remains in the bloodstream for up to 30 days which is a partial explanation for the high percentages and yes, there are people who use multiple drugs, but once again, this report is far from the only one stating that there is a connection between crime and marijuana.

For additional information, see

Crime in America.Net

Arrests and All Drugs

In 2009, anywhere from 56 percent (Charlotte) to 82 percent (Chicago) of arrestees across sites tested positive for the presence of some substance at the time of arrest. In 9 out of the 10 sites in 2009, 60 percent or more of arrestees tested positive.

Arrests and Marijuana

In 2009, marijuana continued to be the most commonly used illegal substance among booked arrestees in all sites but Atlanta, where the same percentage of arrestees tested positive for cocaine.

Over 40 percent of arrestees in 8 of the 10 sites tested positive for marijuana in 2009, ranging from 36 percent testing positive for marijuana in Charlotte to 49 percent in Chicago. Most sites have remained at high levels of marijuana use over the nine years of data collection. The exceptions are Minneapolis and Sacramento that experienced a significant decline over that time period, and Denver and Portland that have shown a significant increasing trend.

When asked about use of marijuana in the prior 30 days, anywhere from 35 percent of male arrestees in Charlotte and Minneapolis to 48 percent in Denver admitted that they had used in the prior 30 days.

These reports were significantly lower in 2009 than in 2007 or 2008 in Charlotte, Minneapolis and Chicago. More arrestees admitted to use in the past 12 months—over 40 percent in all sites and 50 percent or more in three sites (Portland, Sacramento, and Denver).

Arrestees who admitted that they used marijuana in the prior 30 days also admitted frequent use, ranging from 12 out of the prior 30 days on average in Charlotte to 18 out of 30 in Chicago and New York. In 6 of the 10 sites, marijuana users reported that they used on more than half of the prior 30 days.

ADAM Described

The Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM II) program is a unique data collection program that conducts interviews and collects urine specimens in police booking facilities with adult male arrestees within 48 hours of their arrest. Now in 10 U.S. counties, the ADAM II program is a continuation of the ADAM program that operated in 35 sites from 2000 to 2003 under the auspices of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

Since 2007 ADAM II has been sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Between 2000 and 2009, the ADAM and ADAM II programs have collected over 36,000 interviews in the current 10 sites, representing when weighted over 350,000 arrests; over these years, 89 percent of those interviewed supplied a sample for urinalysis.

The ADAM program is a critical source of information for policymakers dealing with the problems of drug use. It captures data on a population not well-represented in any other survey, males 18 years and older at the point of their involvement in the criminal justice system.

It is also the only survey that offers a biological marker of recent use (urinalysis), which when linked to interview data, validates information about recent drug use. In 2009, 86 percent of arrestees interviewed voluntarily provided a urine sample for testing. The data are also unique in that interview and urine test data are collected within 48 hours of arrest, unlike surveys of post adjudicated offenders conducted in jails or prisons long after the offense has occurred.

ADAM data reflect a population that is quite different from that captured in general population surveys. Compared to their counterparts (males 18 or older) in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the nation’s primary population survey on drug use, ADAM respondents are more likely to be unemployed, uninsured and living in transient living arrangements.

ADAM respondents are also more involved with drugs and more experienced with crime. In 20082 only 8 percent of males 18 years or older responding to the NSDUH reported they had used marijuana in the prior 30 days. Across the 10 ADAM II sites in 2008, from 34 percent (Washington, DC) to 52 percent (Chicago) of arrestees reported marijuana use in the prior 30 days and from 31 percent (Washington, DC) to 51 percent (Charlotte) tested positive for the presence of marijuana in their systems at arrest.

This was a pattern found with many other drugs: in 2008, 20 percent of males in NSDUH admitted to ever having used cocaine powder and 5 percent to ever having used crack, while anywhere from 17 (Sacramento) to 44 (Chicago) percent of arrestees tested positive in 2008 for cocaine3 in their system at the time of arrest, indicating use in the past few days.

Heroin, a drug rarely reported in the general population (.2 percent among 2008 NSDUH comparable males) was detected in urinalysis in anywhere from 1 percent (Charlotte) to 29 percent (Chicago) in 2008. Any involvement with the criminal justice system is also far more prevalent among ADAM II respondents.

Only 27 percent of the comparable 2008 NSDUH sample had ever been arrested and only 5 percent in the prior year.

By contrast, anywhere from 59 percent (Washington, DC) to 94 percent (Chicago) of the ADAM II arrestees had been arrested at least once prior to the current arrest in 2008.

ADAM respondents represent a high proportion of drug users who, due to transient living arrangements and/or frequent periods of residency that make them ineligible for inclusion in the HSDUH, are somewhat hidden to traditional data collection efforts.

Finally, ADAM is an important source of information on the local or regional nature of drug problems. Across the 10 ADAM II sites it is evident that what is a serious problem in Sacramento (31percent tested positive for methamphetamine in 2009) can be virtually non-existent in New York (0 tested positive).

Even in relatively close geographic areas, drug problems can be quite different: 18 percent of Chicago arrestees tested positive for opiates in 2009, while 200 miles away in Indianapolis only 7 percent tested positive.

This is ONDCP’s third annual report for ADAM II, providing interview and urine test data collected from a probability-based sample of over 4,700 arrestees from April 1 to September 30, 2009.




  1. […] A comparison comes to mind; when criminal offenders are asked about their drug use during crime the percentages average around 30 percent, see But those testing positive for drugs at the time of arrest average 60 to 80 percent, see…. […]

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