Continuing its series of editorials advocating the legalization of marijuana, the New York Times laments the billions of dollars “thrown away each year in the aggressive enforcement of pointless laws.” The newspaper cites years “wasted behind bars or stolen from a child who grows up fatherless” and “lives …damaged if not destroyed by the shockingly harsh consequences that can follow even the most minor offenses.”
From 2001 to 2010, police around the U.S. made more than 8.2 million marijuana arrests; almost nine in 10 were for possession alone. In 2011, there were more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined. The Times quotes the American Civil Liberties Union estimate that enforcing laws on marijuana possession costs $3.6 billion annually. In the newspaper’s view, the arrest strategy is “largely futile.” After three decades, criminalization has not affected general usage of the drug. Roughly 30 million Americans consume marijuana every year. Police forces are strapped for cash, and the more resources they devote to enforcing marijuana laws, the less they have to go after serious, violent crime.