An Expensive War Against Marijuana

Marijuana users cost U.S. tax payers over a billion dollars last year.

That figure doesn’t include the cost of paying undercover narcs in San Diego to pretend to be high school students for an entire semester so they can bust 15 students for selling a total of 6.3 grams of marijuana, five tabs of ecstasy, 6.4 grams of psychedelic mushrooms, and 12 prescription pain pills.

That figure also doesn’t include the personal disadvantages in income and career for millions of people with a prison record due to posession of marijuana.

One billion dollars is simply the cost of incarcerating citizens arrested for pot.

Prisons for Marijuana Users

Over 12 percent of all state and federal inmates are serving time for marijuana offenses, according to numbers recently released by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. That’s over 44,500 people in prison at an average incarceration cost well over $20,000 per year.

In addition, 786,545 people were arrested and NOT locked away in 2005, costing taxpayers another $8 billion annually to pay for the criminal justice costs. Of those arrested, less than 13% were charged with “sale/manufacture.”

These totals, the highest ever recorded by the FBI, show that the current all-out-of-perspective punishment for marijuana possession is not even a successful deterrent.

Putting Punishment in Perspective

According to federal statistics, 94 million Americans (40% or the population) have used marijuana. The relative risks to users and society are arguably less than the risks of alcohol and tobacco. While it’s debatable whether to make marijuana a legal substance or not, what’s becoming less and less debatable is that the punishment is too costly, both to the people being locked away, and to the law-abiding taxpayers having to foot the bill.

A better punishment might be a fine. For instance, speeding is still illegal in this country; we just don’t lock people away for 10 years because they were driving 70 mph in a 65 mph zone.

[tags]marijuana, pot, prison, incarceration[/tags]

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5 Responses to An Expensive War Against Marijuana

  1. PETE says:

    Joe: As a retired policeman, I couldn’t agree more. The wasted man hours in pursuit of users and minor dealers, and our courts and prison systems overwhelmed with these minor offenders, while real criminals are let out early for lack of space. Legalize it and tax it like liqueur.
    The reasons they wont do it. How many judges and lawyers would be out of work, and all those DEA agents wouldn’t get to play Miami Vice.

  2. JoeC says:

    Yeah, I can’t imagine policemen putting their life on the line to bust people for possession of marijuana. I don’t want my kids messing with it, but it’s arguably safer for them to puff a joint than to clog their arteries with all that Halloween candy we so enthusiastically encourage kids to collect.

    There’s so many other things that should have much higher priority; we should take marijuana off the criminal radar screen and refocus resources on the top 10 problems (don’t know what THOSE are, but I’m certain marijuana isn’t one of them.)

  3. PETE says:

    LEGAL DRUGS, the drug companies are pushing and all there side effects is one.

  4. craig hill says:

    I am confident that awareness-expanding herbs and fungi have long been identified by control-freaked police statists as natural-occurring door-openers which bring people to see they are their own authority, spiritual and secular, thank you veddy much, putting our awareness under constant pressure to hide it lest it spread even more than it is, thereby keeping their false oppressive authority in control.

    Ah, but we will outsmart them, disabuse them of their authority and usher in that new age we know is within reach because we have the goods they lack.

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