A new report published in October of 2016 shows a very disturbing reality that many people already suspect: There were far more arrests for possessing a lesser amount of marijuana than for all violent crimes in 2015. Not only that, but there’s a possibility that the law is not being enforced equally. [1]

This, even as many cities and states have legalized cannabis or decriminalized it in lesser amounts.

It’s time for the DEA and law enforcement to join us here in 2016.

Key Points of this Recent Report

  • Far more African-Americans are arrested for pot possession than white Americans, even though both smoke marijuana at similar rates. Blacks are arrested and prosecuted more often for having lesser amounts of marijuana for personal use. As a result, the court systems are needlessly clogged up with these cases.
  • Last year, law enforcement agencies made 574,641 arrests for lesser quantities of marijuana intended for personal use. That’s about 13.6% more than the 505,681 arrests made for all violent crimes, including murder, rape, and serious assaults.
  • Whites are more likely than blacks to use illicit drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and prescription drugs, yet blacks were nearly 2-2.5 times as likely to be arrested.
  • Black adults were 4 times as likely to be arrested as white adults in 39 states in which sufficient data was available.
  • In places like Iowa, Montana, and Vermont – where the black population is very low – blacks were more than 6 times as likely to be arrested on drug possession charges than whites.
  • African-Americans compose 15% of the population in Manhattan. There, they are nearly 11 times as likely as whites to be arrested on drug possession.

The author of the report, Tess Borden, a fellow at Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, said that despite a drastic drop in crime rates over the last 20 years – including a 36% reduction in violent crime arrests from 1995 to 2015 – the number of arrests for all drug possessions, including marijuana, rose 13%.

Source: American Civil Liberties Union

Borden said:

“Most people don’t think drug possession is the Number 1 public safety concern, but that’s what we’re seeing.”

The report advocates the decriminalization of lesser amounts of illegal drugs intended for personal use.

The Failed War on Drugs

In 1979, there were fewer than 200 drug arrests for every 100,000 people. By the mid-2000’s, that number had risen to more than 500. The drug-possession rate has fallen slightly, hovering near 400 arrests per 100,000, FBI data shows. [2]

Borden summed it up this way:

“It’s been 45 years since the war on drugs was declared, and it hasn’t been a success. Rates of drug use are not down. Drug dependency has not stopped. Every 25 seconds, we’re arresting someone for drug use.”

Supporters of tougher penalties for drug possession insist this is necessary to steer people away from using drugs and to protect public health. However, the push to lock up drug users hasn’t accomplished very much. In fact, more Americans age 12 and older use illicit drugs today than they did in the early 1980’s, when Nancy Reagan was telling kids to “just say no.”

Furthermore, federal figures show no correlation between drug possession arrests and rates of drug use during that time frame.

The report points out

“Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime. More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year.”

Read: Nobel Prize Economists, World Leaders Call for an End to “War on Drugs”

It goes on to say:

“Rather than promoting health, criminalization can create new barriers to health for those who use drugs.

Criminalization drives drug use underground; it discourages access to emergency medicine, overdose prevention services, and risk-reducing practices such as syringe exchanges.”

How Crazy Is It?

In the state of Texas, there are currently 116 people serving life sentences on charges of simple drug possession.

Seven of them were given life in the slammer because they possessed drugs weighing between 1 gram and 4 grams – less than the weight of a typical sugar packet.

Imagine spending life in prison because you got caught with this much marijuana in your pocket.

These ridiculous punishments are the result of the state’s habitual-offender law, which allows prosecutors to seek abnormally long sentences for people who have 2 prior felonies.

Then there’s the case of Corey Ladd. Because he had 2 prior felonies, Ladd was sentenced to 17 years in prison in Louisiana for possessing a half-ounce of marijuana. His 4-year-old daughter will be growing up without him. [3]

Source: Herb.co

(Yes, I actually hunted down a photo of pot measurements to show how unreasonable all of these arrests are.)

The authors of the report write:

“In 2015, more than 78% of people sentenced to incarceration for felony drug possession in Texas possessed under a gram.” [2]

Drug Users are Big Business

Michael Ramos, district attorney of San Bernardino County in California, said decriminalization of drugs (make no mistake, the authors of the report want all illicit drugs to be decriminalized) would pose “huge dangers.” [3]

According to Ramos, decriminalization would flood the nation’s streets with would-be burglars who are desperate to snatch and sell stolen goods to fund their habits.

Ah, but he also said that rehabilitation programs would basically cease to exist if drug abusers no longer had the threat of incarceration hanging over their heads.

A lot of jobs and profit would be lost.

Drug and alcohol rehabs raked in $35 billion in 2014.

Greg Horvath, an interventionist who used to make $30,000 a month, said in a May 2015 interview that he had one employee whose job it was to guide families through the process of refinancing their homes to pay for their loved one’s treatment, which can sometimes cost $50,000 a month. [4]

The whole thing is such a racket that Horvath teamed up with a documentary filmmaker to create a documentary called “The Business of Recovery.”

Consider this: The Betty Ford clinic, which has since merged with Hazelden, costs $53,000 a month.

A nearby retirement home costs $4,005 a month.

It’s not just desperate families who are funding these rehabilitation centers and outrageous staff salaries. Big investors, like Goldman Sachs, have a horse in the race, too.

There are plenty of people out there who would have a lot to lose by drug users no longer living in fear of spending the rest of their lives in prison.

Sources:

[1] The New York Times

[2] The Washington Post

[3] CBS DFW

[4] The Daily Beast

Herb.co

American Civil Liberties Union


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Post written byJulie Fidler:
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.