By Alix Behar
New York Daily Weed Report : 22 January 19
Brock Turner, who brutally raped an unconscious woman, was released after only serving 3 months in prison. Bernard Noble was sentenced to 13 years of incarceration for possession of less than 3 grams of cannabis. Only recently, was Noble finally released in February of 2018. The criminalization of cannabis has been a topic of debate for a very long time, and although legalization may be closer than ever before, there is still a handful of people who are being arrested and locked up for possessing cannabis, even in small amounts. More than half of the arrests in the United States are because of cannabis possession. “When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head. We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there” says politician John Boehner in 2018 in an interview with Bloomberg news.Cannabis still remains illegal, with the exception of medical cannabis, in most states. However, in the states where cannabis is legal, violent crime rates have significantly dropped, “According to the study, violent crime in such states has fallen by an average of 13% since legal cannabis was put on the books, and at even higher rates regarding homicide. Researchers suggest that the drop can be attributed to cannabis users no longer having to rely on black-market products from Mexico, which has been providing the bulk of cannabis products consumed in the U.S. for decades” says Forbes’ Janet Burns.Burns is not the only one who has noted this significance. Evelina Gavrilova, who is an associate professor at the Norwegian School of Economics, says that “These laws allow local farmers to grow marijuana that can then be sold to dispensaries where it is sold legally. These growers are in direct competition with Mexican drug cartels that are smuggling the marijuana into the US. As a result, the cartels get much less business”It’s evident that legalizing cannabis would lower crime rates because more people would opt to buy it legally than illegally on the black market.“When the effect on crime is so significant, it’s obviously better to regulate marijuana and allow people to pay taxes on it rather than make it illegal. For me it’s a no brainer that it should be legal and should be regulated, and the proceeds go to the Treasury” says Gavrilova during an interview with The Guardian.The drug war is largely responsible for violent crimes related to cannabis. A study done by the Economic Journal noted that crime fell by 12 percent following the legalization of medical cannabis, “Robberies have decreased by 19 per cent in US border states which have adopted MMLs, murders by 10 per cent and assaults by nine per cent. The biggest impact is on drug-law related murders, which have fallen by nearly 41 per cent. Countries closest to the border have seen the most significant reductions” says Judith Vonberg, a writer for Independent. It makes much more sense to lock up prisoners who cause real harm, than those who are arrested simply for possessing cannabis. This is especially true when statistics show no real increase in crime. Bill Piper, who writes for the We Are The Drug Policy Alliance, states that “It costs an estimated $10,000 to arrest, process, and convict someone for marijuana possession. Then there’s the cost of keeping thousands of drug task forces operational, most of which do nothing but bust people for marijuana or other low-level drug offenses. New York City claims to not have enough money to test all its rape test kits but spends millions each year randomly searching young people of color for marijuana” Moreover, if more than 50% of Americans are being arrested for possessing cannabis, and not committing violent crimes, why are they being incarcerated over rapists who have traumatized and committed one of the worst crimes imaginable? Why is the criminal justice system more concerned with cannabis use as opposed to those who are carrying out deadly crimes?References Burns, Janet. “Violent Crime Has Dropped In Border States With Legal Cannabis: Study.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 17 Jan. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2018/01/16/violent-crime-has-fallen-in-border-states-with-legal-cannabis-study/.Doward, Jamie. “Legal Marijuana Cuts Violence Says US Study, as Medical-Use Laws See Crime Fall.”The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 14 Jan. 2018, www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/14/legal-marijuana-medical-use-crime-rate-plummets-us-study.Kessler, Glenn. “John Boehner’s Claim That ‘We Have Literally Filled up Our Jails’ with People for Minor Marijuana Possession.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 16 Apr. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/04/16/john-boehners-claim-that-we-have-literally-filled-up-our-jails-with-people-for-minor-marijuana-possession/?utm_term=.16ac74354e40.Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers.” American Civil Liberties Union, Aclu, www.aclu.org/gallery/marijuana-arrests-numbers.“Thousands of Rapists Are Not Behind Bars Because Cops Focus on Marijuana Users.” Drug PolicyAlliance, www.drugpolicy.org/blog/thousands-rapists-are-not-behind-bars-because-cops-focus-marijuana- users.Vonberg, Judith. “Marijuana Legalisation Causing Violent Crime to Fall in US States, Study Finds.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 16 Jan. 2018, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/medical-marijuana-legalisation-cannabis-us-states-violent-crime-drop-numbers-study-california-new-a8160311.html.