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MARIJUANA: Criminalization drains resources

Letter by Robert P. Sharpe, Arlington, Va. on April 27, 2011 at 10:29 am with 25 Comments »
April 27, 2011 10:29 am

Re: “Battle over medical marijuana makes no sense” (Your Voice, 4-26).

The drug war is largely a war on marijuana smokers. In 2009, there were 858,405 marijuana arrests in the United States, almost 90 percent for simple possession. At a time when state and local governments are laying off police, firefighters and teachers, this country continues to spend enormous public resources criminalizing Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis. The end result of this ongoing culture war is not necessarily lower rates of use.

The U.S. has higher rates of marijuana use than the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available. Decriminalization is a long overdue step in the right direction. Taxing and regulating marijuana would render the drug war obsolete.

As long as organized crime controls distribution, marijuana consumers will come into contact with sellers of hard drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. This “gateway” is a direct result of marijuana prohibition.

(Sharpe is a policy analyst with Common Sense for Drug Policy.)

Leave a comment Comments → 25
  1. Robert, what you fail to realize is that the vast majority of those marijuana charges were the result of search subject to arrest. It is unlikely that there were 800K plus operations by police to arrest a person for just possession of marijuana unless the amount indicated the intent to distribute.

    It’s more like this: An officer arrested you for stealing, vandalizing, recklessly speeding, assault, robbery, etc. etc and while the officer searched you for weapons that could harm him or her, they found marijuana. Bam. Another charge. It is usually not the impetus of the arrest. Just a bonus.

    So! Back to the drawing board. Marijuana isn’t really draining resources. It’s just draining initiative, motivation and the ability for people to be productive. While I don’t have a particular beef with marijuana per se. If the majority of the people want it legal, so be it. Vote! But for some reason, it keeps failing at the ballots. Why is that? I just can’t stand when the pro-dopers fail to present a decent argument for its legalization. I have a few but I’m not telling you. Alcohol is legal. It is probably just as bad for you as marijuana – maybe worse. But that does not mean we should add to the list of legal things that are bad for you. That would be like saying tobacco smoking is legal! Why shouldn’t I be allowed to NOT wear my helmet when I ride my motorcycle? Medical marijuana would be fine if illicit/recreational users didn’t abuse the privilege and make it difficult for those with a legitimate need.

    I find the doper movement somewhat entertaining. They have a good case. If only they could get stop eating Doritos, get off the couch and do something about it.

  2. walkineasy says:

    Robert, GREAT letter. Slug, you’re spewing the same old stuff. Yes, many arrests may be secondary, but how much of our time is spent for court hours, jail hours, public defender hours, to defend this ridiculous ‘crime’. This doesn’t take into account the illegal ‘pusher’ activites and costs that will disappear if marijuana is legalized.

    Slug, you ask why should we legalize one more thing that’s bad for us. Alcohol isn’t bad for everybody, many can enjoy a drink or two without negative effects. The same is true for marijuana. So saying it’s bad isn’t necessarily true.

    The reason the law doesn’t get changed is because of all the do-gooders who think they should be able to tell everybody else how to live their lives. They go around yelling that the sky will fall if pot is legalized. They put their fear tactics to work and if those aren’t effective, they bring out their holier-than-thou antics. These people should look into their own lives and souls and fix themselves before they tell everybody else how to live.

    I’ve never done pot, but I do like a wine or two. Mine isn’t illegal, neither should the pot be illegal. Stop wasting our dwindling resources on something that has been proved to not be a danger and actually in many cases extremely beneficial.

  3. I just don’t see the need for one more legal mind altering substance. But if you do thern bring a ballot measure forward that takes all responsibility for the affects of that drug both known and unknown and puts them on the user. Bad trip too bad you need cash for help. Auto accident noi the insurance doesn’t cover you do.Now you got something, your trip, your high, and your cost. Until then no go for me.

  4. slugoxyz says:

    How many court hours are spent on pot? Not too many. Unless it is a sizeable amount (distribution) it will either be tossed or bargained away. Jail hours? Same thing. Since it is attached to another crime, it really doesn’t constitute extra hours. If you legalize pot, then why not legalize opiates, cocaine etc? You call it harmless but there is evidence to suggest that pot does a lot of damage. Evidence to suggest its addictive qualities, destroys incentive, impairs judgment and motor coordination, shortened attention span, anxiety, increased risk of heart attack, increased risk of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals, problems with memory and learning, lowered motivation, decreased alertness, irritability, sleeplessness, impaired appetite etc.
    So, naturally, you’ll pass me a link to tell me how wonderful pot is. I’m not buying it. For every scientist you find that tells me it’s harmless, I’ll give you one that says it’s harmful. So, why take the chance?
    Alcohol isn’t good for anyone. We tried to make it illegal and the masses rejected the law. Why didn’t those same controlling mentalities rise up when given the chance to legalize marijuana? Because no one believes in it’s harmless nature and beneficial effects like you do. Do not presume to think you know everyone’s motivation. Because you can write, do not presume to think you know what is best for everyone else. I honestly don’t care what you do. But you have to know that the world has lines we have to stay between. They are called “norms” in sociological circles. We make the lines pretty wide but people like you are always looking to make them wider. If pot were legal, you’d want to make the lines wider in some other way. There are a lot more important things in my mind that we as a nation need to get a handle on. Pot is NOT one of them. It’s illegal, I’m fine with that, now let’s look at a real problem (economy, violence, corruption, etc.).

  5. walkineasy says:

    oldman4, I’m with you. But I also feel that way about alcohol with driving, domestic abuse problems, not being able to work, etc.. If people want to alter their conscientiousness to the point they can’t control themselves, they should pay the price. No matter what their poison.

    I also feel the same about the motorcycle helmet law and the auto seatbelt law. If you don’t want to use them, you’re choice (less government mandates, more personal responsibility), but then don’t expect the responsible taxpayers to take care of your bills and take care of you when you are paralyzed from the chest down. Your choice – live with it.

  6. walkineasy says:

    Slug, you’re right. Some people always want to make the lines wider. Why, way back when some people wanted to widen the lines to allow women to vote. OMG! Then they wanted to make the lines wider by allowing blacks to vote. Now we’ve gone too far – too wide!! It was better back when the lines were narrower.

    You’re right – somebody is always trying to make those lines wider. Damn people!

  7. walkineasy says:

    Come on Slug, you are spewing the same old dribble about harder drugs. Your argument will take merit when you campaign to criminalize alcohol. Until then, any argument you give about the dangers of pot can be put in for the argument to make alcohol illegal.

    One doesn’t have to partake in an activity to have an opinon of whether one person, yourself for instance, should be able to pass judgment on actions of another. I bet somewhere in your past, or maybe even right now in your present, you have done, or are doing, something that isn’t accepted by society, but you feel is right for you. Shhhh – I won’t tell if you don’t.

    I don’t know who Spicoli is, but he, or she, sounds like somebody you’ve had a runaround with. Bet they won’t like me taking away their adversary.

  8. walkineasy says:

    SPICOLI – where are you?????

  9. slugoxyz says:

    Ah yes. You want to make your argument more widely appealing? Throw the race card. Align your argument with civil rights and equal rights? Are you serious? And I gave you credit from some intelligence. Equal rights and civil rights were things we corrected because the unequal treatment of a person for any reason was wrong. As a nation, we are adjusting to sexual preference. Eventually, those lines will be adjusted to where they ought to be. We grow as a nation that way. Pot is still bad for you. It is not growing as a nation to allow more and more harmful substances to be more and more widespread. As a nation, we don’t need to legalize things to make people less attentive on the road, less attentive in class or work. We legislate safety because we care. That and we want to keep health care costs down. Pot is only going to raise health care costs, make people miss more work if for nothing else than ingesting carcinogens into your lungs (not to mention all the other effects). We legislate health and safety the same as we declare foods poisonous or recall food contaminated with ecoli. We legislate health and safety because it’s the right thing to do and if enforcing a law saves one life by making them wear a seat belt or a helmet then it’s worth it. You want more personal responsibility? Then obey the law. Encourage others to obey the law. Be responsible. We don’t legislate things just to control other people but to help them get along with each other, do the right thing and to stay safe.

    While you damn the people, I give them credit. People are smarter than you think. They aren’t buying your argument that the prohibition of marijuana costs us more as a society. They believe the legalization of marijuana will be more harmful than beneficial. The people of California voted against pot. Because they want to control everyone else? Then why did they vote in a more liberal President? If they really wanted to suppress people, they would have stayed with someone like “W”. They just aren’t buying what you’re selling. Now, try again. You know I can argue against your nonsense all day.

  10. slugoxyz says:

    Nope. I conform to the norm. I obey the law. I do what I’m supposed to do. I don’t drink and drive, I don’t beat my wife, I believe that raising my child is the most important job I have. I work a job and I pay my bills. I even wear matching socks. I can honestly say that I sit here well within society’s lines. And I’m all right with that. But thank you for the offer. You’re quite the Pied Piper…

    Just because a lot of people smoke pot doesn’t mean we should make it legal any more than we should do away with speed limits. Speeding isn’t harmful…until it is. Pot isn’t harmful…until it is.

    Here’s the thing. Alcohol is legal. Alcohol is a substance that has been main stream for a thousand (more) years. While people say pot is a thousand years old and people have always done it, I have trouble finding the historical fact behind that argument. Native Americans may have smoked something with similar effects, it is hardly the same product produced today. Today’s marijuana is much stronger. No one said alcohol was good for you. The nation said they want to be allowed to drink despite its evils and health/social detriments. The nation spoke, the legislature spoke and alcohol is legal. It’s not harmless but it is main stream and socially required (just try to take it away). But I’ve said this before. Pot is not mainstream. If it had been, the people would rise up and demand its legalization. They aren’t doing it. The state has declared that it is worth it to them to enforce the illicit nature of marijuana. The masses agree. So, you can wail away but the people just are not buying what you are selling them.

  11. walkineasy says:

    Slug – OK!!! YOU WIN!!!!! At 23 years old I just don’t have the stamina or interest to be as long-winded as you are. Wow – you must either be a cop or a judge, cuz’ you sure like to pass judgement on people.

    Go enjoy your 5 martini dinner since it’s all legal. And feel very superior while you’re doing it. I’m off to a real job to earn money so some day I can spend as much time spewing verbal diarrhea as you do (there’s that cop, judge or lonely politican theory again).

  12. walkineasy says:

    SPICOLI – where are you???? Take over, please!!!!!!!!!

  13. The war on drugs is just another war we’ve lost. The only ones who haven’t figured it out are the politicians and a few folks still lost in reefer madness movie time.

  14. TtownMatt says:

    Slug, a huge reason the marijuana debate has not been won entirely at this time is many people who would normally support legalization are still scared to show the public their true feelings on the subject. Until I became semi retired last year I could not speak openly of my opinions for fear of losing my job. Most doctors simply refuse to authorize patients with qualifying conditions because they are scared of losing their licence. Judges, lawyers, some police, as well as business owners and many more respected well to do people simply are scared to speak their mind on the subject. Another reason Californians didnt pass their legalization bill was most of the dispensary owners, growers, and black market scene did not vote to put themselves out of a job. These are the people we need to win this war, sorry to the grandpa who shows up on the capital steps wearing a giant joint costume with rainbow suspenders, you’re not helping. The last huge problem I see, is we create these bills with a myriad of issues and try to pass it off as a single piece of legislation. No one can agree on the whole bill and it gets flushed. Start with battles we can win. Such as arrest protections for medical patients. Next maybe a decriminalization bill, then go for your dispensaries and what have you. What we have is not a war on drugs anymore, its a war on americans. We need to change it.

  15. nwcolorist says:

    Is this one of those form letters that lobbyists send to newspapers all over the nation? Does he have some personal interest in our community?

    Remind me again what the TNT policy is on these kinds of letters.

  16. Robert, how many resources are wasted on automobile accidents, welfare cost, loss of productivity and income due to the influence of marijuana?

  17. Gee fatuous….how many?

    You made the implication, you provide the supporting data.
    As explained by a new report in the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform the illegality of marijuana costs local, state, and the federal government billions in tax revenue. According to the federal Office of Management and Budget 28.7% of the gross domestic product – the total economic output of the country in a year – ends up in government’s hands as tax revenue. So, the diversion of money into the marijuana market costs the government $31.1 billion annually.

    Marijuana arrests account for 5.54% of all arrests in the United States, which spends $193 billion annually on its criminal justice system. As such, marijuana arrests account for $10.7 billion annually in criminal justice expenses.

    Add it all up, and marijuana prohibition costs the US $42 billion every year.

  18. Slugo you dont live in a fact-based reality do you? Another uneducated anti american with no information.

  19. Italian spring… you have to make up stupid crap just to have something to post? Again, the uneducated, uninformed, deluded anti american.

  20. guycasey says:

    Wow all i can say is your money is not being spent wisely How much money was wasted on club 420, How much money have i spent defending myself .One year of my life,house car, family harassed. Now talk about money. How are you going to like it when they have to give me your tax dollars.Wont be so funny then.Dont believe everything you read.some people lie,even police.Come down and watch your tax dollars in action .Courts on the 4th.GUY CASEY CLUB 420.

  21. sue1234? Great comment. What did that take you? 3 seconds? Is that your attention span? Go smoke some more and go back to the kiddie table while the grown ups talk.

  22. Slugo I didnt realize that veracity is observed in verbosity.

  23. slugoxyz says:

    sue1234? You still here? Surprised you can type with one hand on the remote control and the other on your bag of Doritos. Smoke up Sue.

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