5.2 more reasons to end the war on drugs


I don't usually come back on a topic two days in a row unless there's something incredible -- but this struck me as pretty incredible. It's more from the New York Times' well-done package of the inanity of our current prohibition on marijuana.

Here's a couple of salient points:

The costs of this national obsession, in both money and time, are astonishing. Each year, enforcing laws on possession costs more than $3.6 billion, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It can take a police officer many hours to arrest and book a suspect. That person will often spend a night or more in the local jail, and be in court multiple times to resolve the case. The public-safety payoff for all this effort is meager at best: According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report that tracked 30,000 New Yorkers with no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession, 90 percent had no subsequent felony convictions. Only 3.1 percent committed a violent offense.

Continue reading the main story The strategy is also largely futile. After three decades, criminalization has not affected general usage; about 30 million Americans use marijuana every year.

But that's not what blew me away. Check out the chart on the left-hand side of the piece. It looks at the disparity of drug arrests between blacks and whites in all 50 states. Here's the thing: Pot is color-blind. Studies have shown that people of both races smoke marijuana at the same rate. But nationally, African-Americans are 3.7 times more likely to get arrested for pot. But look at the list: Pennsylvania is even worse -- the worst, in fact, on the entire Eastern Seaboard. Here, blacks are 5.2 TIMES more frequently arrested for marijuana offenses. And you know that Philadelphia is a huge part of that problem.

That is one social problem that we can start to fix, immediately. Right now, Mayor Nutter has on his desk a bill that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana in Philadelphia a $25 offense. The sponsor, City Councilman Jim Kenney, has the votes no matter what the mayor does, but Nutter seems determined to drag his feet...while scores of citizens get a needless blemish on their record. I'd urge the mayor to remember what Martin Luther King and others have long said: Justice too long delayed is justice denied.