|To the editor:
Police have arrested an estimated 771,608 persons for marijuana violations in 2004, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report, released in November.
The total is the highest ever recorded by the FBI, and comprises 44.2 percent of all drug arrests in the United States. Of those charged with marijuana violations, 89 percent - some 684,319 Americans - were charged with possession only.
The total number of marijuana arrests in the U.S. for 2004 far exceeded the total number of arrests in the U.S. for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Incarceration of nonviolent individuals not only wastes taxpayer money, it overcrowds prisons so much that violent criminals are often allowed to go free when they are eligible for parole.
Without a legal, regulated market for marijuana, drug dealers have no reason not to target children or to sell contaminated and dangerous samples. If marijuana were treated more like alcohol, for example, children would have a harder time obtaining it. Marijuana causes less harm to both individuals and society than alcohol or tobacco — and yet responsible adult drinkers and smokers are not punished by the state in any way.
Arresting adults who smoke marijuana responsibly needlessly destroys the lives of tens of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens each year. With nearly 17 million citizens arrested on marijuana-related charges since 1965, is now not the time for the state and federal governments to finally consider legally controlling marijuana via taxation? Is not such a public policy preferable to the current one where government arrests an extraordinary amount of citizens for an adult behavior that is not deviant, or, for that matter, dissimilar than consuming products that contain alcohol? I think it is time we took steps as Columbia, MO has to at least decriminalize if not legalize.
Joplin Chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
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