Archive for January 26, 2009

When all else fails, turn to the economy

Two important Connecticut lawmakers – Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney and Senator Toni Harp, charwoman of the appropriations committee – are turning to an unsurprising arugument – the budget deficit – to pass legislative reform in their state.
The article in the Hartford Courant cites a Harvard study that estimated that Massachusetts police used to spend $30 million per year ‘arresting and investigating low-level marijuana users’.

Two paragraphs make this article stand out:

Such steps, though small in scale, represent a new focus in the drug war. Calls for tougher penalties have traditionally dominated the conversation while the case for less restrictive laws was rooted in libertarian philosophy or concerns about racial bias.

“In the past, it was more of a racial justice issue,” said LaResse Harvey, policy director for the Hartford-based A Better Way Foundation, which advocates treatment instead of incarceration for drug offenders. “This year, it’s a fiscal issue.”

And they’re right. The arguments that marijuana prohibition is racist and discriminatory are important and valid – and especially good at explaining to voters why the laws need to be changed. Still, on a realistic level, it is hard to pass legislation in this country if the money’s in the wrong place, and emphasizing the economic benefits to drug policy reform during times like these can only strengthen the argument.

So, the next time that you find yourself in a conversation with someone, listing the many, many reasons that we need to effect change on this issue, be sure to mention the vast savings. The $30 million is only an estimate for low-level possession for a single state (with only 2.1% of the country’s population). Imagine how much we could save if all other states – and the federal government – followed suit.

January 26, 2009 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment


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