Re: “Enforcing pot laws cost millions, report claims” (TNT, 8-29).
I’d like to correct some misleading information in coverage of the ACLU’s new interactive map on the significant costs of enforcing current marijuana laws.
Contrary to law enforcement assertions, the map’s data do not include costs for cases where marijuana possession was a relatively insignificant factor. Rather, the government’s own arrest data used for the map follows the “hierarchy rule” – which means in cases where more than one offense occurs, only the highest ranking offense is reported. If someone is arrested for marijuana possession and assault, only the assault offense would be listed in the arrest data.
Similarly, it’s off the mark for Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist to claim that the study used prosecution costs for cases in which marijuana was only tangential to larger offenses. Indeed, the study took multiple charges into account and adjusted prosecution and defense costs downward by 50 percent.
To see the full methodology visit www.aclu-wa.org/method.
Since 2000, there have been more than 9,000 arrests for marijuana possession and more than 1,200 arrests for marijuana sales in Pierce County. For Lindquist to say that not making these arrests and not prosecuting the cases would lead to no “significant cost savings” flies in the face of the reality of the drug war.
Government officials should reconsider whether it’s a good use of law enforcement resources to go after marijuana users in the first place, instead of shifting these resources to violent crimes.
(Cooke is a policy advocate with ACLU of Washington.)