More People Arrested for Marijuana Possession than Violent Crime in 2011
An investigation published last month by the Huffington Post found that over 100,000 more people were arrested in 2011 for possession of marijuana (the most harmless of drugs) than violent crimes. That means we’re spending more resources locking up and disenfranchising individuals for a victimless crime, resources that could be better spent solving murders and apprehending rapists. Talk about skewed priorities.
Taxpayers have shouldered the cost of arresting and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of people for the possession of marijuana, often in small quantities for personal use. Some national estimates put the annual cost of marijuana arrests above $10 billion, and low-level arrests for marijuana possession cost New York City alone $75 million in 2010.
In the era of budget cuts to desperately needed social programs, it’s remarkable that we continue to spend so much money punishing recreational marijuana users. And keep in mind that these costs don’t take into account the income one loses while behind bars and the years after being freed since a felony conviction makes one unemployable. This also hurts families whose breadwinners turned felons are subsequently unable to provide for them. That translates into more single parents struggling to make ends meet and more kids growing up without the resources necessary to lead successful and prosperous lives.
And it’s not as though the criminal justice system applies the law evenly. As Cord Jefferson points out:
Despite the fact that whites smoke marijuana more often than Blacks and Latinos, when it comes to arrests for the drug, Blacks and Latinos are nabbed far more frequently than their white counterparts. In New York City, for instance, which leads the nation in pot busts, nearly 90 percentof the almost 500,000 people who have been charged with misdemeanor pot possession in New York have been Black or Latino. Elsewhere, the arrest rates for pot are racially biased in the same way. In California, for instance, every single county in the state arrests Blacks for marijuana possession more often than whites. In LA it’s seven times the rate of whites, while in Torrance it’s nearly 14 times the rate.
It’s racist, it’s wasteful and it’s destroying countless lives. It’s way past time to decriminalize, legalize and regulate marijuana (and other drugs) so police can focus their efforts on, I dunno, solving murders? It’s just a thought.