Letters to the Editor

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MARIJUANA: Costs of enforcement are real

Letter by Mark Cooke, Seattle on Aug. 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm with 6 Comments »
August 31, 2012 9:31 am

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.)

Leave a comment Comments → 6
  1. You’re preaching to the choir here.

  2. lylelaws says:

    Let’s face the facts: the war on drugs has long-sense been lost because it is virtually impossible to protect people against themselves, and legalizing the use of pot would have a couple of positive effects.

    First, the great amount of taxpayer dollars spent on spent on enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration would be greatly reduced or eliminated and some of the savings could be used to open re-hab centers.

    Next, the amount of crime now being committed by users would be reduced considerably if they could make legal purchases that would be taxed.

  3. Harry_Anslinger says:

    If we honestly apply the hierarchy rule to controlled substances relative to their causational harm, we wouldn’t be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on cannabis prohibition.

    I am a non pot smoker that has been exposed by friends and relatives who suffer from cancer, crohns, and other chronic conditions to truly remarkable results from cannabis as medicine. That opened my eyes to find out what were the reasons for cannabis prohibition in the first place and in particular when we need to not waste tax dollars does prohibition provide any tangible benefits to society or does it infringe on personal freedom?

    Once you decide to remove 80 years of ingrained propaganda, movie cliches, and learn who Harry Anslinger was, cannabis prohibition becomes an affront to American freedom and protects the Pharmaceutical industry, the alcohol industry and helps guarantee the DEA budget to run around playing cops vs citizens. It’s wrong and expensive. Please try to have genuine perspective and ask what what gains if any and what costs are involved in continuing prohibition.

  4. the amount of crime now being committed by users would be reduced considerably if they could make legal purchases that would be taxed.

    Lyle, I agree with almost everything you wrote in your post but I am a little confused on one statement. Aside from the crimes of possession and possession with intent to sell – what crimes are you talking about? Unlike physically addictive Meth and Heroin, users of marijuana tend to not be driven to crime to support their habit.

  5. lylelaws says:


    Thanks for the question.

    I should have said that much of the crime users commit to get money to buy drugs would be eliminated. And, of course, the streets and our homes would be safer as a result.

  6. surething says:


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