Last week we gave you several headlines about a recent ACLU survey which showed that statistics covering marijuana arrests across the nation were falling along strict, and disturbing, racial lines.
According to the report, on the national level blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for a weed-related crime, despite the fact that blacks and whites use marijuana at relatively equal rates. That disparity in arrest rates jumps as high as 18 to 1 in cities like St. Louis where local Metro Police Chief Sam Dotson dismisses accusations of racial profiling with blockhead quotes like, “Law enforcement is not…black and white.”
Regardless of the color of a person’s skin, being arrested for a marijuana related crime can cost someone their reputation at least, and all too often, can take their freedom as well.
Those emotional costs are matched only by the fiscal impact that America’s war on weed is having on cash-strapped states struggling to balance their sinking budgets. With teachers and firefighters being laid off in record numbers, with our bridges and schools collapsing in obsolescence, and with Governors across the country throwing their hands up in financial frustration, somehow states found $3.6 billion to burn in their efforts to enforce archaic marijuana possession laws in 2010.
That sum was highlighted in the same ACLU report that uncovered the startling levels of racial disparity surrounding pot arrests. Though, the report’s author admits that the dollar amounts are just their “best estimate”, and that the true cost could have been as high as $6 billion in that one year alone.
As far as what it costs U.S. taxpayers to enforce these laws, The Huffington Post gathered the most alarming figures from the ACLU report:
$20 billion: The amount states will spend enforcing marijuana laws over the next six years.
$900: The minimum per-capita cost spent by California, Nevada and Washington on criminal justice for marijuana offenders.
$750: The low-level estimate that states pay for each marijuana arrest.
$95: The national average per-diem cost of housing an inmate arrested due to a marijuana-related offense.
$2: The average amount communities spend each day on marijuana supervision.
Back in March, we reported on a study by the Drug Policy Alliance which cited that police officers in New York City alone had spent over 1 million man hours making over 440,000 weed-related arrests between 2002 and 2012. The same group determined that each marijuana arrest cost the NYC taxpayers $2,000. You can do the math, and that’s just one city.
Financially, the Federal Government is in just as bad of shape as the states, with budget woes threatening to slide the entire economy back into a recession. The enormous costs that Federal drug enforcement agencies incur when raiding local dispensaries and prosecuting pot cases are often left behind for the local city council to find a way to pay for.
More and more often, though, the Feds are being named in lawsuits that, whether successful or not, are chewing up valuable time and resources that the government could be using to fight real crimes, or to fix this shitty economy.
Pot prohibitionists are fighting a losing war, and the rest of us cannot afford the costs associated with one marijuana arrest every 42 seconds.