Oklahoma’s arrest rate for marijuana possession is slightly above the national rate, and arrest rates vary considerably among counties, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of 10 years’ worth of FBI data.
In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, the median arrest rate in Oklahoma was about 270 arrests per 100,000 population, slightly higher than the national rate of 256.
Over a decade, from 2001 to 2010, the average annual rates for Oklahoma counties varied widely, from fewer than 200 to more than 1,000 arrests per 100,000 residents.
A medium-seized county on the eastern side of the state, Sequoyah, led the state with an annual average rate of 1,090 marijuana arrests per capita. The state’s two largest counties, Oklahoma and Tulsa, ranked in the middle, with about 300 arrests.
Meanwhile, two of Oklahoma’s smaller counties, Coal and Woods, place second and third, with 804 and 646 arrests.
Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart said he wasn’t surprised to see his area ranked number one in marijuana arrests. Since taking office in 2009, Lockhart said he’d made drug arrests a priority in his area by adding narcotics detectives and focusing on seizing drugs on Interstate 40, which runs through his county.
“We have been working hard on the problem,” Lockhart said.
Stillwater Police Chief Ryan McCaghren, head of the largest police agency in Payne County, which ranked 13th out of the state’s 77 counties, cited two factors for his county ranking high: a large percentage of young people in the Stillwater area, and an aggressive drug and narcotics unit.
“It is a priority,” McCaghren said of drug-related arrests in his department. Focusing on drug crimes helps police cut down on property crimes, which often are related, he said.
The FBI numbers were gathered by the American Civil Liberties Union, which in June released a report showing that blacks were more than three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites in the United States. In Oklahoma, the situation was no different, as blacks were 2.8 times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana possession.
Pushmataha County is #34 with an average of 276 arrests
Choctaw County is #56 with an average of 224 arrests
Atoka County is ranked 5th with an average of 511 arrests
Latimer County is #30 with an average of 282 arrests
LeFlore County is 29th with an average of 292 arrests
McCurtain County is ranked 37th with an average of 269 arrests