Tony Newman at (646)335-5384
According to the FBI’s 2007 Crime in the United States Report, released today, the police made more than 1.8 million drug arrests last year, more than three times the number of arrests for violent crime during the same period. 82.5 percent of drug arrests were for simple possession of an illegal drug. Only 17.5 percent were for sales or manufacturing. Almost 775,000 arrests were for nothing more than possession of marijuana for personal use, a 5 percent increase over 2006. Those arrested are separated from their loved ones, branded criminals, denied jobs, and in many cases prohibited from accessing public assistance for life.
The Following is a statement from Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.
“For more than 30 years the U.S. has treated drug use and misuse as a criminal justice matter instead of a public health issue. Yet, despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent and millions of Americans incarcerated, illegal drugs remain cheap, potent and widely available in every community; and the harms associated with them — addiction, overdose, and the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis — continue to mount. Meanwhile, the war on drugs has created new problems of its own, including rampant racial disparities in the criminal justice system, broken families, increased poverty, unchecked federal power, and eroded civil liberties. Continuing the failed war on drugs year after year is throwing good money and lives after bad.
“It’s time for a new bottom line for U.S. drug policy — one that focuses on reducing the cumulative death, disease, crime and suffering associated with both drug misuse and drug prohibition. A good start would be enacting short- and long-term national goals for reducing the problems associated with both drugs and the war on drugs. Such goals should include reducing social problems like drug addiction, overdose deaths, the spread of HIV/AIDS from injection drug use, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and the enormous number of nonviolent offenders behind bars. Federal drug agencies should be judged — and funded — according to their ability to meet these goals.
“Policymakers should especially stop wasting money arresting and incarcerating people for nothing more than possession of marijuana for personal use. There’s no need to be afraid of what voters might think; the American people are already there. Substantial majorities favor legalizing marijuana for medical use (70 percent to 80 percent) and fining recreational marijuana users instead of arresting and jailing them (61 percent to 72 percent). Twelve states have legalized marijuana for medical use and 12 states have decriminalized recreational marijuana use (six states have done both).”
View the full text for the FBI’s 2007 Crime in the United States Report here.