You’re Paying $3.6 Billion In Taxes Each Year To Criminalize Cannabis
Trump is making it difficult to monitor drug-related offenses, but decriminalization is the answer
Despite the fact that 20% of the country has access to legal cannabis, more people were still arrested for cannabis possession than all other violent crimes in 2016, according to the FBI’s latest Uniform Crime Report (UCR).
The UCR has been reporting on the total cases of nationwide drug-related arrests since 1970 and provides a table categorizing them into cannabis, cocaine, heroine, synthetic drugs, and other non-narcotics such as steroids. Cannabis possession arrests increased last year, the same year wherein voters from four states approved recreational cannabis use, while three other states voted to legalize medical cannabis.
The data shows that in 2015, there was a total of 1,488,707 drug arrests and 4.6% of those were due to cannabis sales and 38.6% were due to possession for an equivalent of 643,121 cannabis-related arrests. Now in 2016, there were 1,572,579 drug arrests, but the UCR removed the table that shows the break down of drug arrests. The site has a disclaimer, saying: “UCR staff have strategically trimmed the amount of tables and refined the presentation of data in this year’s publication.”
Tom Angell, a writer at Forbes, got in touch with the FBI to inquire the reasons why the table was removed. The FBI rep responded, saying that 37.36% made up possession arrests while cannabis sales arrests made up 4.18%, for a total of 653,249 cannabis arrests last year. “Criminalizing drug use has devastated families across the US, particularly in communities of color, and for no good reason,” says Maria McFarland Sanchez Moreno, Drug Policy Alliance’s executive director. “Far from helping people who are struggling with addiction, the threat of arrest often keeps them from accessing health services and increases the risk of overdose or other harms.” Furthermore, the Drug Policy cites the case of Portugal, where drug use and possession has been decriminalized since 2001 and today has one of the lowest drug overdose rates in all of western Europe.
The High Cost Of Criminalization
Meanwhile, in the United States, AG Jeff Sessions is on a mission to crack down even more on drug use. He’s been vocal and consistent about being against cannabis legalization, but public health experts think that the country could benefit from decriminalizing all drugs because not doing so will only continue to fuel over-incarceration, disease, crime; all of which are negative impacts of the drug trade. Most importantly because of harsh laws, drug users have nowhere else to go but the black market and this applies particularly to cannabis even it’s been proven safer than alcohol, which is completely legal.
Criminalization comes at a steep price. American citizens are paying a total of $3.6 billion in taxes each year even if a majority of the population already support legalization. “It’s really shocking in this era that these numbers are so high,” adds Sanchez Moreno. “It really makes you question why law enforcement is wasting resources and locking up people for personal use of marijuana.”
The $3.6 billion in wasted taxpayer money doesn’t even take into account how much it costs to lose hours of work time as well as the enduring financial burden that comes with having a criminal record and the inability to find a job.
Accroding to Justin Strekal, NORMAL’s political director, the increase in arrests “only further demonstrates the need for state lawmakers to respect the will of the majority of their constituents and end the practice of marijuana prohibition once and for all.”
Sanchez Moreno also adds that the increase in drug busts which amounts to around 14,000 might not reflect an actual change in the warm on drugs but rather a difference in how the data was collected this time around. In 2010, cannabis-related arrests have reduced dramatically and continues to decrease despite the surge last year.
The figures may be puzzling, but it’s much smaller than the data taken from 10 years ago when no state in America had legalized cannabis just yet. In 2007, 872,720 people were arrested for cannabis-related offenses, which is the all-time high, translating to one arrest in every 20 people.