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Reefer Madness or a Good Start


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In 2003, 26,494 persons were arrested in Wisconsin statewide for drug-related crimes, according to the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. Of this number, 20,245 were arrested for drug possession. Almost 75 percent of those (14,097) were arrested for possession of marijuana.

Statewide, the average rates of marijuana arrests per 100,000 population dwarfed arrests for possession of other drugs for 2001-03, OJA data disclosed.

Nationally, in 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported some 786,545 persons were arrested for marijuana violations, of which 696,074 were arrested for possession of marijuana.

At the same time, jail and prison incarceration rates for prisoners convicted of non-violent drug crimes and in need of substance abuse counseling were skyrocketing in Wisconsin.

A 2006 study by Justice Strategies and supported by state Sen. Carol Roessler, R-Oshkosh, and state Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, among others, found the state spent $83 million imprisoning such offenders, when drug treatment services could have been provided at a fraction of the cost.

And the real numbers may be even higher.

"Much of the behavior that packs Wisconsin 's prisons is rooted in drug and alcohol abuse, " the report states. "As one judge put it, Drugs drive all our crime, the whole caseload. The economics of the whole criminal justice system here is driven by addiction. ' " Overall, $43 million in annual savings would result from providing treatment in lieu of incarceration, the report concludes.

And here 's why, according to George Melloan, retired deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal. Melloan wrote in 2006 that expenditures for drug prohibition limit supplies and drive prices up, predictably enough. The United States spends $50 billion at all levels of government for drug interdiction, according to Melloan, not counting the costs of expanded prisons.

"The more the U.S. spends on interdiction, the more incentive it creates for taking the risk of running drugs. "

Don 't ask those on the front lines of the war on drugs to save costs, he says.

"An army of government employees now makes a living from the drug laws and has a rather conflictive interest in claiming both that the drug laws are working and that more money is needed. "

So one question for the taxpaying public, according to Melloan, is whether the use of marijuana should be legalized or decriminalized.

The answer should be "yes " for both questions, and Waukesha County has moved in the right direction.

Martin is a lawyer and a senior fellow for legal affairs at The Heartland Institute in Chicago.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal (WI)
Copyright: 2008 Madison Newspaper,Inc
Contact: wsjopine@madison.com

Kymie Brown

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hopefully they legalize pot, and this so called "war on drugs" is a complete joke. all it is doing is wasting the governments time and money.
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