Get help today 888-509-8965 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Drug Offenses & Sentencing By State

Drug use in America is on the rise and the latest estimate from the 2017 National Drug Use And Health survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that 30.6 million Americans aged 12 or older have used an illicit drug in the past month, an increase of 6% from 2016 survey results.

Illegal drugs seem to also be increasingly accessible with an estimated $100 billion of illegal drugs sold annually in America according to The Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Given those figures, the team here at wondered what the drug landscape looked like throughout America for drug offenses and use. To find this out, we used 2017 federal sentencing statistics from the United States Sentencing Commission to examine drug offenses and possession charges by state with some interesting results.

Percentage Of Offenses Relating To Drugs and Most Common Drug Offense By State

Of drug possession and trafficking offenses committed in 2017, Vermont had the highest rate with 61.2% of offenses committed in the state being related to drugs. Connecticut and Hawaii have the second- and third-highest drug offense rates with 54.8% and 50% of all offenses committed in these states being drug-related.

New Mexico has the lowest percentage of drug-related offenses in the country with only 15.6% of offenses committed relating to illegal drugs in the Land of Enchantment.


Coverage Levels of Different Health Insurance Providers

Visit the links below to find out more about insurance companies and coverages for inpatient or outpatient drug and alcohol rehab treatment.

When looking at offenses by drug type, methamphetamine is the drug most frequently involved in drug-related offenses throughout the country with 30 states reporting this as the most common drug featured in drug offense arrests.

Marijuana is the least common drug featured in drug-related offenses throughout the country with only two states, Arizona and New Mexico, reporting marijuana as the most frequent drug involved in drug-related offenses.

Marijuana Offenses By State

When it comes to drug offenses for marijuana, Arizona has the highest percentage of offenses with 74% of all drug offenses committed in this state relating to the drug.

Colorado actually has the fourth-highest percentage of marijuana offenses in the country with 26% of all drug offenses featuring this drug. Whilst marijuana is legal in most parts of Colorado, it currently is illegal to possess in federal land such as state parks and property which may explain this high percentage.

With marijuana being legal for recreational use in Maine and Vermont it’s not surprising that these states have zero marijuana-related offenses. However, it’s interesting to see that Connecticut, Delaware, and New Hampshire also have zero marijuana-related offenses despite marijuana being legal for medical use only in these states.

Drug Related Guilty Pleas and Prison Sentences By State

When looking at guilty pleas in drug offense cases, it seems that offenders in Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, New Hampshire, and West Virginia are 100% likely to plead guilty to their offense.

People committing drug-related offenses in Iowa are more likely to contest criminal charges than in any other state with only 93% of all drug offense cases featuring guilty pleas.

If you commit a drug-related offense in Delaware, you’re guaranteed jail time with 100% of all drug-related offenses ending in prison sentences.

Rhode Island is the state where drug offenders are most likely to avoid jail time with only 62.5% of drug-related offenses resulting in prison sentences.

Map of average months in prison for drugs

Looking at the average prison sentences given for drug-related offenses, Iowa is the harshest state with the average sentence given being 111 months. Arizona is the most lenient state with  17 months being the average sentence given.

In conclusion, we can see that America clearly has a methamphetamine problem due to the  majority of drug offenses being related to this drug in 30 states throughout the country.

Vermont has the highest percentage of drug offenses in the country with heroin as the most common drug featured in these offenses whereas New Mexico has the lowest percentage of drug offenses with marijuana being the most featured drug in all offenses.

It’s also clear that we have a huge disparity in prison sentencing throughout the country when it comes to drug offenses with Arizona issuing an average sentence of 17 months and Iowa an average sentence of 111 months.

Illegal drug use is a major problem throughout the country with the effects of these drugs negatively impacting on millions of lives. Just like many other chronic diseases, drug addiction can be managed and treated successfully allowing people to counteract the disruptive and negative effects of drugs on their brain and behavior so that they can regain control of their lives.

If you know anyone in your life suffering from drug addiction find out more on how you can help.

Fair Use Statement

The information and graphics in this blog post can be used and displayed by all commercial and non-commercial websites without charge. However, use is only permitted with proper attribution to When using this information or any of these graphics, please include a backlink to this page.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.