Would Legalizing Marijuana Save Many Law Enforcement Costs?


Supporters of California’s Proposition 19 say legalizing and regulating marijuana would save the debt-plagued state hundreds of millions of dollars in public safety costs. KPBS Radio in San Diego asks whether that could actually happen. Richard Lee, who has put $1.5 million of his own money into the effort to get it passed, says, “I was the victim of a carjacking and then the police took a long time to respond and that made me as mad as the carjacking. So I started thinking about how the police were wasting their time looking for people like me instead of the real criminals. And, so that's how I got started in working toward ending cannabis prohibition.”

Law enforcement officials say they are focusing on real criminals. It just so happens that some of those real criminals happen to have marijuana on them, they said. San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore says there isn't a focus in his department on finding and arresting small-time marijuana users. “There could have been 20 or 30 years ago,” Gore said. “But those days are long gong. You're not going to see people arrested for smoking a joint walking down the street. They will be cited in most cases. What our department focuses on, as does almost every other law enforcement agency, I'm sure, in the county, focuses on organizations that are selling drugs and distributing drugs.”

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