Dr. Harry Levine of Queens College, New York, has released stunning data about the costs of marijuana prohibition in Washington State that would be addressed by the passage of Initiative 502, the measure to legalize marijuana.
Dr. Levine reports that since 2001, over 129,000 Washingtonians had been arrested for marijuana possession, costing the state between $194 and $258 million dollars.
Furthermore, 70% of those arrested for marijuana possession were below the age of thirty and they were disproportionately non-white. Blacks were arrested at a rate 2.5 times greater than their share of the population. Despite using marijuana at rates similar to whites, blacks are 2.9 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Washington. Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans combined make up only 14% of Washington’s population, but 25% of those arrested for marijuana possession.
Those arrested for marijuana possession face serious impediments to future employment, education, and other life opportunities. Defending a marijuana possession case can cost the accused over $4,000, or the services of a public defender that the taxpayers subsidize. Despite having a medical marijuana law, arrests are over twice as prevalent as before the law passed in 1998. It’s time to put police back on the streets fighting real crime by voting YES on I-502.