I work as a paralegal for a law firm that handles both civil and criminal law—from divorce to murder, and a lot in between. From MY standpoint, most marijuana related charges are a big friggin’ waste of time. (image source here).
I mean, sure, I’m happy when a serious drug addict parent is ordered supervised visitation, 6 months of rehab, mandatory counseling and weekly 12-step program attendance before they are allowed to have regular visitation again. I see far too many terrible tragedies with drug addict parents and their poor helpless little kiddos to think otherwise.
But I don’t see those tragedies happening with marijuana, or if I do, the issue is not the drug, but the BEHAVIOR of neglect and abuse, for instance.
I have a great deal of compassion for folks who endure horrible drug addiction and the lifestyle and mindset that accompanies it. They need help getting back on track. Perhaps jail with a rehab sentence is a step in the right direction, but the recidivism rate for people who were FORCED into rehab is so much higher than for those who elected to do so voluntarily.
Back to the point, I have a HUGE problem with cops who prowl around LOOKING for something to pin on users, like it’s their mission. I’m in such a fit about it. I read these long police reports of how these cops go their rounds where they know drug use might be taking place, they do a bit of a casual “raid,” get a few guys on possession, and book ‘em that night.
The fact is, these blokes are almost always just minding their own business, doing their own thing, and not getting into any trouble. They’re getting high with friends. And that is it. And that is their right to do.
If kids are involved, I screech that opinion to an abrupt halt. And I guess this is where this conversation deserves some attention in another post.
But I’m just saying, if the police commissioner wants cops to spend hours prowling the town, staking out parties because they think there MIGHT be drug possession there, when you could otherwise be setting up strategies to catching really violent and dangerous criminals in their behaviors, we have some really messed up priorities.
I’m not saying drugs and crime are not connected. Unfortunately, statistically they frequently are. And for this reason, a stake out might seem like a good idea—especially if you have a known violent criminal who you can’t get on any other charges. If he’s slaughtering people and you can’t prove it, but you catch him with a bag of hash, then it’s your lucky day as a cop. I think sometimes THIS is why we have drug laws—because they are the easiest correlation to crime, and are often associated with hardened criminals, but often end up being the only thing we can get them on.
The problem is, non-violent folks who get booked for possession will also be charged, sent to jail, arraigned, and either plead down to community service, or sentenced to jail or rehab, or taken to trial. ALL of these things require a state-appointed District Attorney, paid for by you and me. All of those things also require court overhead, prison overhead, and rehab overhead as well.
When Mary Jane goes to court, Judge Judy has to be paid. She doesn’t work for free! Neither does the bailiff, the court reporter, the clerk, the secretary, or the guards who stand at the entrance of the building to make sure you aren’t bringing any weapons into the courthouse. The heating and air for a building that size is phenomenal. Also there are the lights, the water and plumbing, the trash, the cleaning and building maintenance, the copy machines, the Clerk’s Office staff, and the computers and filing systems that are needed to keep track of it all.
All in all, because you had a marijuana pipe on you at a party, you just cost the state $50,000. And that is just for your one-hour arraignment.
Then there’s the jail time—guards, lunch staff, cleaning staff, prison counselors and medics, librarian, grounds keepers, etc.
And if it goes to trial, forget about it.
The cost alone is prohibitive! It should be grounds for a huge wake-up call in itself. We should allocate limited resources toward things that really pose danger and threat to the community.
Better yet, maybe we should be allocating funds toward education, awareness, and rehabilitation of criminals who might otherwise be suffering from things like PTSD, mental illness, and addiction.
I don’t smoke marijuana. I actually don't think it's a good idea to consume things that limit my decision-making abilities. I like to know what I'm up to, and I like to have control over my faculties, with rare exception. But you may be different. And you should be able to do whatever you want to do.
In any case, if we are going to have a law enforcement and judicial system, we should use them to protect our communities from dangerous and scary crimes and criminals instead of on arresting, booking, charging, arraigning, hearing, sentencing, paroling and rehabilitating individuals who have done nothing to provoke any kind of violence or pose any kind of threat to the community as far as I am concerned.
The hundreds of thousands of dollars that potentially go into ONE SINGLE drug charge is ludicrous!!!
With all the money we have left over, we could:
- beef up our child protective services by requiring social workers to carry Master’s degrees, and pay them triple what they currently earn (this is what Canada does, by the way).
- fund heroin injection clinics so that hard-core drug addicts can have a safe place to go that will foster rehabilitation and recovery in ways that are actually effective. (check out my post here on how some large cities are doing this already)
- stake out child porn rings and crack cold-blooded murder cases with our bare hands!
- pay skilled counselors/mentors to recruit youth into programs designed to prevent crime and encourage education and industry
- pay more judges and staff to run a more efficient judicial system
With all the TIME we have left over, we could:
- schedule hearings closer together so we could handle more items on the docket in a year
- develop more intricate strategies at cracking real crime
- use parole officers for things like mentoring and crime-prevention maintenance, rather than tattle-tailing and babysitting
I think there are probably a lot of things we could be doing with our state money, time, and resources to enhance the lives of our innocent, improve opportunities for our troubled, and give rehabilitation for our criminals.
I haven’t gotten into the actual effects of marijuana itself. I think as with anything, it can be good and bad. I think there is plenty of room for discussion here as well.
For today’s topic, I’m simply saying marijuana charges unnecessarily burden the system and pull resources away from otherwise more important issues, such as abuse, violence, negligence, battery, and neglect. To name a few.
I also haven't even TOUCHED on the effects that legalizing marijuana will have on minimizing the power among elite crime lords and cartels. That is also a fabulous topic for another day.
Suffice it to say, though, I voted “yes” on Prop 2 in my state to allow for recreational use, growth, distribution, and sale of marijuana because I think the illegality of it gums up the system. People with far worse issues need to be heard and handled, and this would really help that.
What do YOU think? How did YOU vote, and why?