January 17, 2013
"Marijuana Possession Arrests Exceed Violent Crime Arrests"The title of this post is the headline of this new commentary at The Huffington Post. Here are excerpts from the piece from which I obtained the reprinted graphic:
Americans are shifting on marijuana. More than half of them think it should be regulated like alcohol and cigarettes, 18 states have passed legislation approving it for medical use and Washington State and Colorado have legalized it for recreational use, but it remains illegal under federal law. And the arrests continue — one every 42 seconds, and 86 percent of those are simply for possession, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
In 2011, marijuana possession arrests totaled 663,032 — more than arrests for all violent crimes combined. Possession arrests have nearly doubled since 1980, according to an FBI report, while teen marijuana use recently reached a 30-year high.
President Obama said last month that going after recreational pot users in states where it is legal is not "a top priority" for his administration, which echoes a promise he made in 2008 not to interfere with states' medical marijuana laws. Since then, his administration has aggressively targeted dispensaries that are in compliance with state law.
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. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed decriminalizing possession of 15 grams or less — even when flashed in public view — last week in his State of the State address.
A few recent and older related posts:
- Is new brain science now suggesting football is more dangerous than marijuana for kids?
- If force to choose, would you legalize marijuana or prohibit tobacco?
- Intriguing new comments from President Obama on federal pot prohibition policy
- Female voters seen as key to success of pot reform initiatives
- "Marijuana: A Winning GOP Issue?" ... and a lost 2012 Romney opportunity
- How can and should we assess the "success" of medical marijuana and pot prohibition reform efforts?
- "California inspired — and now inspired by — other states' marijuana legalization measures"
- "Neighbor states on guard against pot from Colo., Wash."
January 17, 2013 at 03:19 PM | Permalink
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"In 2011, marijuana possession arrests totaled 663,032"
Bill Otis, would you say this figure is too high by 663,032?
Posted by: Bill K | Jan 17, 2013 5:03:55 PM
Bill K --
Would you say that people who openly defy well known federal (and most states') law are acting foolishly?
Put down the joint or smoke it in private and you won't have any trouble. (I prefer the former). This is not that hard to figure out.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 17, 2013 5:26:32 PM
Of course, when banks launder billions in drug money nobody gets arrested and the Justice Department enters into "deferred prosecution" agreements. But dope smokers? They're criminals who foolishly defied well known federal laws and must be punished even if the state they live in has voted to legalize. That makes sense, right?
Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 17, 2013 6:25:14 PM
"But dope smokers? They're criminals who foolishly defied well known federal laws and must be punished even if the state they live in has voted to legalize. That makes sense, right?"
The actual percentage of pot smoking that winds up in an arrest, much less in a prison sentence, is next to zero. So it's hardly that pot smoking "must be punished." The truth is thst hardly any of it is punished.
There are two states (out of fifty) that have voted to legalize recreational pot. I am unaware of a single person in either state, since legalization, who had been sent to federal prison for pot smoking. Not one.
As to what makes sense, how much sense does it make to continue bellyaching about federal "enforcement" that (1) barely exists, and (2) is easy as pie to avoid by either smoking indoors, or, better yet, quit smoking and go do something constructive?
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 17, 2013 9:02:14 PM
"The actual percentage of pot smoking that winds up in an arrest, much less in a prison sentence, is next to zero."
Not as close to zero as the percentage of bankers caught laundering cartel money - DOJ seems to give them all a pass. Compare those cases to this guy.
Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 17, 2013 10:26:54 PM
It would appear that Grits and I agree on two points -- that the percentage of pot smoking that winds up in an arrest, much less a prison sentence, is next to zero; and that DOJ has a woefully deficient record in going after bankers engaged in laundering drug money.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 17, 2013 11:18:14 PM
Bill, we would agree if you'd added the caveat that pot smoking rarely results in a FEDERAL prison sentence. Most of the 600,000+ arrests were in state court and your "next to zero" comment is inapplicable there, particularly if one were to include prisoners whose probation terms were violated because of a failed drug test.
Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 18, 2013 12:52:44 PM
I don't know how many states routinely, or even very often, impose prison time for simple possession of user-only amounts of dope. I suspect it's very, very small. You just don't go to the state pen for smoking a joint. I'm not saying it never happens. I saying it happens very seldom. It would be like going to prison for speeding 16 mph over the limit on the Interstate.
My point was not to assess the frequency of prison sentences compared to the frequency of simple possession convictions, although that would be extremely small. My point was to assess the frequency of prison sentences compared to the actual number of times a joint gets lit up in this country, and that is asymptotic to zero.
Dope is de facto legal. Liberals, libertarians and conservatives, each for their own reasons, like to pretend this is not so, but non-ideological people know better.
As to probation: When you know you could be drug tested anytime, and go ahead and get blasted anyway, the problem is not the law. The problem is that the probationer has the IQ of a carrot. It's like going to a job interview drunk as a skunk and two weeks since your last shower.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 18, 2013 1:51:12 PM
Possession of marijuana is a criminal offense under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Posted by: Marijuana in Edmonds | Jan 23, 2013 8:35:12 AM