When the debate over the legalization of medical marijuana was at its height in California during the months preceding the vote on Proposition 19, which would have legalized small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, states across the country began discussing the potential benefits both in savings and tax revenue.
Today, that discussion is being revisited with the release of a report from the Drug Policy Alliance alleging that New York City is currently spending roughly $75 million each year on minor marijuana possession charges. According to the report, the large majority of the charges are directed toward black and Latino youths, a point of particular discontent among critics.
The $75 million is under additional fire considering the possession of minimal amounts of the drug was decriminalized 30-years ago and doesn’t require arrest. The unnecessary busts, according to the DPA, cost the city approximately $2,000 each. 350,000 arrests of this kind have been made since 2002, translating to the unnecessary loss of significant funds that could be going toward paying teacher salaries, improving schools or any other number of things funded by tax payer dollars.
The confusion over marijuana legislation costs states across the nation major tax dollars. Between raids of medical marijuana dispensaries and unnecessary enforcement, the superfluous spending can be significant, especially in a state like California already grappling with grave budget problems. The opposition to Prop 19 argued that decriminalization of marijuana was enough and that legalization was an unnecessary step, but this report in New York proves otherwise. Millions in tax dollar, with the potential to be allocated to agenda items like improving education, or even after school programs that would help prevent young kids from experimenting with drugs to begin with, are instead being spent on unlawful enforcement as a result of the lack of clarity.
To boot, the arrests stay on the record for the 50,000 annual offenders permanently. For example, if asked in an interview if they have ever been arrested, there is an obligation to say yes, despite their actions not being criminal. Perhaps the release of the specific financials of marijuana will inspire greater action against false criminal charges and financial charges on the general public.
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