Decriminalization

Decriminalization

Though remaining illegal, decriminalization of marijuana would see possession of small amounts classified as a civil rather than criminal and jail able offense. RAMP strongly encourages states to end arrests for small amounts of marijuana, and voters in 18 states where decriminalization measures have become law agree.

According to the FBI’s Annual Crime Report, 749,824 arrests for marijuana violations took place in 2012. 88 percent of those arrests were for possession alone (rather than sale or cultivation)(1). That is an arrest every 42 seconds!

A report by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws shows that despite a 165% increase in arrests for marijuana, we have not succeeded in the program’s stated goals: there has not been “a reduction in marijuana use, reduced marijuana availability, a reduction in the number of new marijuana users, reduced treatment admissions, reduced emergency room mentions of marijuana, any reduction in marijuana potency, or any increases in the price of marijuana” (2). That is quite an indictment.

Meanwhile, as the arrests for marijuana tally, law enforcement has seen a precipitous drop in clearance rates, or solved cases, of violent crime. The Party that is “tough on crime” may not have noticed “national clearance rates for murder and manslaughter have fallen from about 90 percent in the 1960s to below 65 percent in recent years” (3). Criminologist Charles Wellford in his University of Maryland study, “Clearing Up Homicide Clearance Rates,” states, “We’ve concluded that the major factor [of solving homicide] is the amount of resources police departments place on homicide clearances and the priority they give to homicide clearances” (4). Are the resources more valuable solving violent crime or arresting violators of marijuana laws? RAMP believes the answer is clear.

Not only has the overall program of marijuana prohibition been ineffective, is has been unjust. Though use rates of marijuana are nearly equal comparing White and Black Americans, a Black person is nearly four times as likely to be arrested for possession, as shown by an exceptionally comprehensive study put forth by the American Civil Liberties Union(5). As a Party that needs to embrace causes important to minority voters, Republicans cannot turn a blind eye to the civil injustices taking place every minute we let pass.

(1) United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reports for the United States, 2012. Washington: U. S. Dept. of Justice, 2013.
(2) Gettman, John B. “Crimes of Indiscretion: Marijuana Arrests in the United States.” George Mason University School of Public Policy, March 2005.
(3) Hargrove, Thomas. “Murder Mysteries: Percentage of killings that go unsolved has risen alarmingly across the United States.” Scripps Howard News Service, May 2010.
(4) Cronin, James and Wellford, Charles. “Clearing Up Homicide Clearance Rates.” National Institute of Justice Journal, April 2000.
(5) “The War on Marijuana in Black and White.” American Civil Liberties Union, June 2013.