Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It’s Time to End the Failed War on Marijuana

Marijuana has become the drug of choice for police departments nationwide – a trend that is playing out with major consequences here in Wyoming. According to a new report released yesterday by the ACLU, police in Wyoming made 2,254 marijuana arrests in 2010. 93% of these arrests were for possession, not for the manufacture or sale of marijuana – which means that thousands of people have been unnecessarily ensnared in our criminal justice system just for having marijuana for their own personal use.

Over the last twenty years, police have turned much of their zeal for fighting the misguided War on Drugs towards the enforcement of marijuana laws in communities across the country. And like America’s larger War on Drugs, America’s War on Marijuana has been a failure. Despite being a priority for police departments, their aggressive enforcement of marijuana laws has not diminished the use or availability of marijuana.

How is this failed War on Marijuana impacting Wyoming?

Over-policing. In 2010, cops in the United States made one marijuana bust every 37 seconds. Once ensnared in the criminal justice system, people can lose their liberty, money, time, jobs, public benefits, child custody, drivers’ licenses and student aid, and can be deported.

Wasted Time and Money. Wyoming spent approximately $9,148,026 enforcing marijuana laws in 2010 – money that could have been otherwise invested in our communities to enhance public health and safety, drug treatment programs, and police-community relations.

Unacceptable Racial Bias. Marijuana usage rates are similar among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks in Wyoming are 3.2 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly mires hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system, crowds our jails, wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars, fails to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverts precious police resources away from solving serious crimes.

As the ACLU’s report makes clear, it’s time to rethink our marijuana laws and enact sensible reforms.

Take Action! Click here to sign the ACLU Action petition calling for an end to marijuana arrests.