$1 Billion per year to jail marijuana users
$1,000,000,000 every year. Is it worth it? More important, is it working? (Both answers: No.)
That’s what American taxpayers spent last year according to Paul Armentano’s article on Alternet.org.
American taxpayers are now spending more than a billion dollars per year to incarcerate its citizens for pot. That’s according to statistics recently released by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.
According to the new BJS report, “Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004,” 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug violations are serving time for marijuana offenses. Combining these percentages with separate U.S. Department of Justice statistics on the total number of state and federal drug prisoners suggests that there are now about 33,655 state inmates and 10,785 federal inmates behind bars for marijuana offenses. The report failed to include estimates on the percentage of inmates incarcerated in county and/or local jails for pot-related offenses.
Multiplying these totals by U.S. DOJ prison expenditure data reveals that taxpayers are spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison pot offenders.
Continue reading original
For most people, it’s hard to look at national budget numbers and know whether or not to be upset. One billion seems like a lot, but sometimes people don’t have anything to compare it to. It would be a good bet that most folks couldn’t tell you if the entire GDP was closer to $13 billion, $13 trillion, or $130 trillion.
To get an idea of what kind of priority $1 billion amounts to for American taxpayers, let’s do what the politicos do – let’s talk about terrorism.
On October 12, 2001, the FBI requested $1.5 billion to respond to the attacks of September 11. The White House Office of Management and Budget cut that request to $531 million.
Whatever one thinks about the strength of the US economy, the fact is that right now we spend more than we earn as a nation (US consumer savings is still negative) and as a government. Our resources are extremely limited.
That’s why the White House Office of Management and Budget cut that request to $531 million. It would be the height of cynicism to believe that the President would not have spent everything the US could have to respond to that day. We did. And we spent half what we spend jailing potheads.
One billion dollars is significant because it illustrates a priority that is mandated by the US government but totally out of step with the average American. This government is supposed to be representative, but on the issue of marijuana it has gone out of control.
A Declaration was once drafted – on paper made from the finest marijuana – as a response to just such a detachment. If we’re going to teach the Middle East how to govern, we can begin by respecting the values of our own Great Experiment.