As Washington residents consider whether or not to pass legislation legalizing recreational use of marijuana, many are considering what it would save the state to remove the ban on pot. A new analysis shows savings could be considerable. According to a group of academics out of New York, the state has spent over $300 million on more than 240,000 pot possession arrests over the past 25 years. The majority of these arrests have happened in the last decade.
According to the group, which say they were not funded or associated with any pro- or anti-legalization efforts, it’s time to “capture people’s attention about what is going on,” in the world of criminal justice and marijuana.
In addition to the enormous financial burden that marijuana criminalization has put on the state, it’s done this at a dramatically disproportionate rate to racial minorities.
The group found that although whites admit to using marijuana at higher rates than both African-Americans and Latinos, blacks were arrested at twice the rate of whites, and Latinos’ arrest rate was 50% higher than whites.
What does this mean? Baptist minister Leslie David Braxton put it well, saying there are “more black boys and girls in prison,” “not because we smoke more weed than white boys and girls, but because the laws are enforced in a discriminatory pattern.”
The county where marijuana arrest rates were highest what is Whitman County, home to Washington State University. King County saw more than 65,000 arrests over the 25 year period, with more than 35,000 of those between 2000 and 2010.
It’s significant to consider the state could save over $300 million in a matter of a few decades of marijuana legalization, but it’s true. Without legalization, there’s a good chance marijuana arrests could continue the upward trend they have seen over the past several years. In other words, the price tag could be well over $300 million for the next 25 years. The math couldn’t be clearer.
This money could be spent on other crime enforcement, drug treatment, community empowerment, or other things that could truly affect the safety of the residents of the state. Busting college students for a few joints certainly won’t make most of us feel any safer, however.
In the meantime, marijuana is illegal, just like any other controlled substance. And in an effort to not appear weak in the face of possible legalization, it seems, some jurisdictions are going after pot cases harder than ever. If you’ve been arrested and charged with a marijuana offense, contact our attorneys today.