Marijuana

Colorado Cops Bust More Than 10,000 Pot Smokers a Year, Despite 'Decriminalization'

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Less than two weeks before Colorado voters decide whether to legalize marijuana in that state, a new report highlights one important reason they should vote yes: Even though Colorado supposedly "decriminalized" marijuana possession in 1975, police there continue to arrest more than 10,000 pot smokers every year. That's because possession of small amounts (less than an ounce at first, two ounces since 2010) remains a crime, albeit a "petty offense." The report's authors, Queens College sociologist Harry Levine and Jon Gettman, a professor of criminal justice at Shenandoah University, explain:

A person charged with possessing marijuana is issued a summons to appear in criminal court. The court appearance is mandatory and failure to appear is another crime, a Class 3 Misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and a $500 fine….

Police departments have discretion as to whether they charge under state or municipal law, and in some municipal courts marijuana possession is punished more harshly than in county courts where state law applies. In the city of Lakewood, for example, possession of a small amount of marijuana can be punishable by $1,000 and one year in jail. In many cities, municipal courts typically impose fines of $300 or more for a first time marijuana possession charge. It is not unusual for municipal judges to place people on probation for up to six months, charge them $50 per month in probation fees, [and] require that they meet with a probation officer and submit to regular drug testing. Some judges send people to jail for several days for failing a drug test for marijuana….

Marijuana possession arrests create criminal records easily found on the internet by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies, licensing boards, and banks, erecting barriers to education, employment, and housing.

Levine and Gettman count 210,000 marijuana possession arrests in Colorado since 1986. Following a national trend, pot busts in Colorado have risen dramatically since the early 1990s, from less than 4,000 in 1992 to about 10,500 in 2010; the peak year was 2000, when there were more than 12,000 marijuana possession arrests. As in New York City and California, the arrests are racially skewed: Blacks are more than three times as likely as whites to be charged with marijuana possession, even though survey data indicate they are no more likely to smoke pot. More generally, the burdens of enforcing marijuana prohibition are arbitrarily distributed, landing on the unlucky few who happen to be caught. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that 10 percent of Coloradans consume marijuana every year, amounting to about 368,000 people. (The actual number is probably higher, since people may be reluctant to admit illegal behavior even in a confidential survey.) That means less than 3 percent of pot smokers are arrested in any given year. When a "crime" is committed each year by at least a tenth of the population, 97 percent of whom get away with it, it probably should not be treated as a crime, especially when it violates no one's rights and most people think it is not the sort of behavior that justifies an arrest.

In addition to legalizing possession of up to an ounce, Colorado's Amendment 64, which was supported by 48 percent of voters in the most recent survey, would authorize state-licensed pot shops. You could eliminate all the possession arrests counted by Levine and Gettman without taking that step, but only by accepting an egregious moral inconsistency: If consuming marijuana is not something for which people should be punished, how can it possibly be just to punish people for aiding and abetting that noncrime?

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    1. BeForeYouThawWit?

      1. Because Fuck You, That’s Why!

        Stock answer for legitimate questions about law enforcement’s dubious actions.

  1. Vote yes on 64.

  2. Blacks are more than three times as likely as whites to be charged with marijuana possession, even though survey data indicate they are no more likely to smoke pot.

    The fact that liberals aren’t more upset about this is why I despise them.

    1. I learned from movies that, unless they’re in Jamaica, blacks don’t smoke pot at all. Neither do women. It’s always young white guys.

      1. Some of the greatest stoner primary characters are black, non Jamaican.

      2. I don’t know which movies you watch, but that is not my experience.
        And most pot smoking IRL is, in fact, done by young white guys.

        1. Because there’s a lot more young white guys.

          If you think brothers ain’t smokin, we have had different experiences.

    2. Why they aren’t more discreet is beyond me.

    3. The trouble is that “liberals” are torn between their revulsion at blacks being punished more often and their feeling of the white man’s burden to make life better for blacks by discouraging them from being intoxicated.

  3. how can it possibly be just to punish people for aiding and abetting that noncrime?

    They are earning money without paying taxes. That means that all of their worldly possessions are forfeit. Why would the government want to give up that power?

  4. I was watching this show “Alaska State Troopers” and it seems like every other arrest involves marijuana, which is weird because I thought it was more or less legal there. Also alcohol is apparently outlawed in much of the state, so the other arrests are usually of bootleggers. Which doesn’t seem fair to not allow people to drink in a place where it’s a dark frozen tundra most of the year.

    1. When there aren’t enough criminals to justify the police state, criminals must be manufactured with unjust laws.

      1. Alaska is full of the same kind of scumbags that gravitate to Florida. There is enough theft, violence, and trespassing (poaching for example) that should be able to keep a reasonably staffed state police agency busy. Not to mention all the regulatory and environmental crap.

        1. One cop was like “They can buy an $8 bottle of vodka in the city and bring it out to the rural areas and sell it for $450.” Good luck stopping the illegal trade with those kind of profits.

        2. “Alaska is full of the same kind of scumbags that gravitate to Florida”

          I don’t know if “full” is the right word. And when I was visiting there, I got a strong impression that trespassing was pretty likely to get you shot.

    2. Alaska is super hard on DUI (largely because of the large native population that is especially prone to alcoholism; the dry areas are largely native towns and areas), so perhaps they also are hard on transporting drugs or assume that such drivers are intoxicated. I’m pretty sure that at least and ounce for personal use is still more or less legal in AK. But it might only be true in a private home since it is a right to privacy thing.

  5. Municipal courts should not even have jailing powers.

  6. Paranoid old men keep
    marijuana illegal and
    make our children LESS safe.

  7. Yes weed can.

  8. But they didn’t enjoy it.

  9. But what would happen to all those pot-hunting cops if it was legal? Jobzzz!!

    1. They have extraordinary senses of smell – they will be readily employable in the tasting market. I hear most ice-cream, beer, and other giant foodstuffs companies insure their tasters for well over a million (or more). With olfactory sense like they have, they are in the wrong line of work to begin with.

  10. I have been assured that the police would never do such a thing, therefore this article is a lie.

  11. If consuming marijuana is not something for which people should be punished, how can it possibly be just to punish people for aiding and abetting that noncrime?

    It may not be just, but it goes for a lot of other goods which it’s perfectly legal to possess, but not to sell. Such laws are predicated on the idea that the seller is cheating the buyer by selling them goods which are substandard or which the buyer doesn’t know are no good for hir. There are myriad examples. The closest example is liquor, which in most jurisdictions children may legally consume, but it’s illegal to sell or in most circumstances give it to them. Other examples are prescription drugs (other than controlled substances), consumer products deemed dangerous, and mislabeled goods.

  12. very super blogos thanks admin sohbet & sohbet odalar?

  13. may not be just, but it goes for a lot of other goods which it’s perfectly legakelebek sohbet l to possess, but kelebek chat not to sell. Such laws are predicated on the idea that the seller is cheating the buyer by selling them goods which are substandard or which the buyer doesn’t know are no good for hir. There are myriad examples. The closest example is liquor, which in most jurisdictions children may legally consume, but it’s illegal to sell or in most circumstances give it to them. Other examples are prescription drugs (other than controlled substances), consumer products deemed dangerous, and mislabeled goods.

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