Many of the arguments advocating for the continued criminalization of marijuana directly coincide with the belief that drug use, of any kind, warrants legal consequences such as incarceration. People who maintain this perspective view individuals who smoke marijuana, or even people who are caught with marijuana paraphernalia on their person, as being dangerous to society. Societal pressures to incarcerate marajuana users has not only resulted in millions of arrests, but wasted government assets in prohibition enforcement as well as a lack of jail space for actual dangerous criminals.
Drug-related arrests have not decreased by any measurable number since the 1970s, and continuee to burden both state and federal governments budget in the United States. In the article “Legalize Drugs and Stop the War on People”, Thomas Geers reveals that in the early 90s our government spent nearly $40 billion per year on drug-related arrests and incarcerated MILLIONS of Americans. By decriminalizing the possession of marijuana in particular, the justice system will be able to more aggressively pursue individuals who have committed serious crimes.
In 2002 California enacted Proposition 36, which sentenced people in possession of the drug into treatment programs rather than prison; and has dramatically “reduced the number of inmates imprisoned on drug-possession charges from almost 20,000 at the time of the law’s passage to just over 15,000”.
A prime example of the incarceration of a non-dangerous “criminal” due to marijuana related issue wasting goernemnt resources is seen in the case of Thomas B. Kin Chong; a.k.a. Chong from the Cheech and Chong movie and record series. In 2003 Mr. Chong accepted a plea agreement for distributing 7,500 bongs and waterpipes. He was sentenced to 9 months in a federal prison, a fine of $20,000, forfeiture of $103,514, and loss of all property taken in the raid. He pleaded guilty in exchange for non-prosecution of his son and wife. The sting dubbed Operation Pipe Dream cost over $12 million taxpayer dollars and required the resources of over 2,000 police officers.
$12 million dollars….Really??? If Mr. Chong’s case doesn’t scream misuse taxpayer dollars we don’t know what does!
What it comes down to is that the government can no longer afford to continue to the ‘War On Drugs’ and waste its resources on the incarceration of individuals for marijuana use or possession. Our justice system is essentially being mismanaged when it comes to drug-related incarcerations and therefore, filling prisons with non-dangerous individuals instead of hard criminals. Decreasing marijuana-centric conviction rates will also inevitably foster a more smoothly functioning justice system as a whole. A more efficient and effective justice system will eventually ensure that taxpayer money will stop being spent fixing countless errors made every year due to the current lack of personnel and resources. Following the example of Proposition 36 and providing marijuana users with the option of treatment as opposed to incarceration would not only decriminalization marijuana, but would be a wildly successful solution to state and federal deficits.