What's the Going Price for a Joint?

What's the Going Price for a Joint?
Posted by CN Staff on January 23, 2008 at 12:39:04 PT
By Paul Armentano
Source: CounterPunch
USA -- What's the current price for a bag of weed? According to the latest figures from the FBI, the human cost is roughly 739,000 a year. That's the number of American citizens arrested in 2006 for possessing small amounts of pot. (Another 91,000 were charged with marijuana-related felonies.) The figure is the highest annual total ever recorded, and is nearly double the number of citizens busted for pot fifteen years ago.
Those arrested face a multitude of consequences, primarily determined by where they live. For example, most Californians charged with violating the state's pot possession laws face little more than a small fine. By contrast, getting busted with a pinch of weed in Ohio will cost you your driver's license for at least six months. Move to Texas--well, now you're looking at a criminal record and up to 180 days in jail. Or if you happen to be a first-time offender, possibly a stint in court-mandated 'drug rehab' (one recent study reported that nearly 70 percent of all adults referred to Texas drug treatment programs for weed were referred by the courts), probation, and a hefty legal bill. And don't even think about getting busted in Oklahoma, where a first time conviction for minor pot possession can net you up to one year in jail, or up to ten years if you're found guilty of a second offense. Thinking of growing your own? That'll cost you a $20,000 fine, and--oh yeah--anywhere from two years to life in prison. Yes, you read that right--life in prison. Of course, not everyone busted for weed receives jail time. But that doesn't mean that they don't suffer significant hardships stemming from their arrest--including (but not limited to): probation and mandatory drug testing, loss of employment, loss of child custody, removal from subsidized housing, asset forfeiture, loss of student aid, loss of voting privileges, and the loss of certain federal welfare benefits such as food stamps. And yes, some offenders do serve prison time. In fact, according to a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug violations are incarcerated for marijuana offenses. In human terms, this means that there are now about 33,655 state inmates and 10,785 federal inmates behind bars for violating marijuana laws. (The report failed to include estimates on the percentage of inmates incarcerated in county jails for pot-related offenses.) In fiscal terms, this means that taxpayers are spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison pot offenders. Yet this billion dollar price tag only estimates the financial costs on the 'back end' of a marijuana arrest. The criminal justice costs to taxpayers--such as the man-hours it takes a police officer to arrest and process the average pot offender--on the 'front end' is far greater, with some economists estimating the financial burden to be in upwards of $7 billion a year. Naturally, as the annual number of pot arrests continues to increase (according to the latest FBI data, marijuana arrests now constitute 44 percent of all illicit drug arrests), these costs are only going to grow larger. There are alternatives, of course--options that won't leave this sort of human and fiscal carnage in its wake, and that won't leave entire generations believing that the police are an instrument of their oppression rather than their protection. 'Decriminalization,' as first recommended to Congress in 1972 by President Nixon's National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, called for the removal of all criminal and civil penalties for the possession, use, and non-profit distribution of cannabis. Such a policy, if adequately implemented, would eliminate the bulk of the human and fiscal costs currently associated with enforcing pot prohibition. A second option, 'regulation,' would also significantly slash many of society's prohibition-associated fiscal and human costs. Legalizing the commercial sale and use of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, with state-mandated age controls and pot sales restricted to state-licensed stores, could also potentially raise billions of added dollars in tax revenue while simultaneously bringing an end to the more egregious and adverse black-market effects of the plant's criminalization - such as the production of pot by criminal enterprises and its clandestine cultivation on public lands. Would either option be perfect? No, probably not. ('Decriminalization,' for instance, might indirectly encourage pot use; 'regulation' might not entirely eliminate the black market sales of pot.) But how can continue with the status quo? Since, 1990, law enforcement have arrested over 10 million Americans--more than the entire population of Los Angeles county--on pot charges. Yet, according to federal figures, both marijuana production and use are rising. Isn't it time we began looking at ways to address the marijuana issue that move beyond simply arresting and prosecuting an inordinate amount of otherwise law-abiding Americans? Or must we wait until another 10 million citizens are arrested before our state and federal politicians find the courage to begin this discussion? Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. He may be contacted at:  paul norml.orgSource: CounterPunch (US Web)Author: Paul ArmentanoPublished: Weekend Edition: January 19/20, 2008Copyright: 2008 CounterPunchURL:  counterpunch counterpunch.orgNORML -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #2 posted by lineman on January 24, 2008 at 20:44:11 PT
> MANSFIELD WOMAN FREE AFTER DRUG CONVICTION BASED ON LIESThe system is rotten to the core. Its really hard to have respect for a justice system that allows this to happen every day. Its not an isolated occurrance - If an informant says you sold drugs, but actually you have never used or sold drugs, you will be convicted and sent to prison. Then the informant will get paid in cash or drugs for your bust.Most of these informants are completely addicted and by setting people up, they are doing what they need to do to keep getting drugs.In this case, the scumball asked her out on a date. But he had already said that he could chop her up and put her in his trunk and no one would care. So for that reason, she declined to date him, and for that reason he falsely accused her of selling drugs.I guess in this case, considering she spent 18 months in prison, I guess she should have dated him for a minute. The system is rotten to the core and allows this kind of atrocity to happen every day.Today I donated:$100 to MAPS
$12 to DRCnet
$35 to FEAR
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Comment #1 posted by RevRayGreen on January 23, 2008 at 19:37:35 PT
This is about as bad as the Tim Masters case in CO
by John Caniglia, Plain Dealer Reporter, (Source:Plain Dealer)Ohio
26 Cases Tied to Informant, DEA Agent Who Manipulated System Geneva France walked out of federal prison with $68 and a bus ticket home. That's all the government had to offer a woman who had served 16 months of a decade-long prison sentence for a crime she didn't commit. The mother of three returned to her family, but her youngest child -- who was 18 months old when France was sent to prison -- didn't recognize her. And France, 25, had no home to return to. Her landlord had evicted her from the rental during her incarceration, and everything she owned had been tossed on the street. France's case is the nightmare scenario for a system that critics say sometimes dispenses justice differently for rich and poor. It shows how easy it is for the government to get convictions in cases built on shaky investigations. Defense attorneys say a street-smart but dishonest informant and a federal agent working without oversight manipulated the system to convict France and dozens of others. "They stole the truth," France said. "I don't think I'll ever trust people again. It's too hard." "I don't know how a human being with a heart could stand up there and lie about another person," France said. "They stole part of my life." She was convicted of being a drug courier -- a conviction that prosecutors now acknowledge was built on lies. A judge released her in May. Her case was part of an extensive operation to stem the flow of drugs in Mansfield. Today, federal prosecutors will meet with a judge to discuss throwing out the convictions of 15 men imprisoned in the same tainted investigation -- including the case against a man serving 30 years in prison. Federal prosecutors in Cleveland charged France and 25 others from Mansfield in 2005, based on the work of informant Jerrell Bray and DEA agent Lee Lucas. Twenty-one people were convicted. U.S. Attorney Greg White has admitted that there are major problems with the case. He declined to elaborate on today's hearing before U.S. District Judge John Adams. In recent weeks, a special federal prosecutor and an investigator have spent hours listening to France, hoping to determine how a massive drug investigation, spearheaded by the DEA, became a debacle. In October 2005, France was scraping by in a nursing-home job that paid little more than the minimum wage. Feeding, changing and cleaning up after the elderly wasn't her dream job, but it allowed her to provide for her kids. France said she believes her trouble began when one of her friends introduced her to the man the friend dated -- Bray. He scared France immediately, bragging about how he could stuff her in a trunk, take her to Cleveland and no one would ever hear from her again. He also asked France out for a date. She refused. At 6 a.m. Nov. 10, 2005, federal agents pounded on her door. She opened it, and authorities burst in, placing her youngest daughter, Leelasha, on the couch as they searched for drugs. They found nothing. "I didn't know what to think," France said. "I was getting my children ready for school when all of a sudden people start screaming, Where are the drugs?' There were no drugs." They dragged her to court for her first appearance, and she didn't recognize many of the people around her, even Ronald Davis -- the person police said she ran drugs for. It was her first trip to a courtroom, and she was bewildered. France had never been in trouble. In court, she refused a plea agreement of three or four years in prison and went to trial. If convicted, she could have been sentenced to life. France said she wasn't worried; she was innocent and had a solid case to prove it. She quickly realized she was wrong. Bray, acting as informant for the DEA, and Lucas said they bought more than 50 grams of crack cocaine from her about 2 p.m. Oct. 25, 2005, a time when France said she was braiding a friend's hair. Lucas and Bray identified her from a photo Mansfield authorities provided. "As soon as [a sheriff's deputy] showed me the picture, I said, That's the girl I bought from,' " Lucas testified at France's trial Feb. 14, 2006. The picture was France -- her sixth-grade class picture, taken 13 years earlier. No surveillance photos, which are standard in tracking drug dealers, were taken in France's case. It was her word against Lucas'. "There he was, this big DEA agent who had worked in Bolivia, and there I was, this woman from Mansfield," France said. Jurors afterward said they believed Lucas. After all, he was a federal agent. She was convicted. Her first thought: "I'm never going to see my children again." If not for a cousin, her children would have entered the foster-care system. France split her time between prisons in West Virginia and Kentucky. Her fellow inmates mocked her, telling her that once federal agents arrested her, there was no such thing as leaving prison early. She pored over books she could barely read in law libraries and thought of her daughters. Her family couldn't afford to visit or call. France cleaned the prison for 12 cents an hour, allowing her to save up for a phone card to call home. For every three hours of work, she earned enough money to pay for one minute of talking to her daughters on the phone. "I thought I was going to be in prison for 10 years, and I just gave up," she said. Finally, in May, the case unraveled. Bray got in a fight while selling marijuana on Cleveland's West Side and shot a man. Stewing in jail, Bray admitted that he lied about France, saying she never sold any drugs and shouldn't be in prison. On June 29, federal prosecutors asked a judge to release her immediately. A prison in Lexington, Ky., gave her a bus ticket and $68 to get home and sent her back to Ohio. She wanted to see her children, Kyelia, 8; Kateria, 6; and Leelasha, 3. It was unsettling. Her older children loved her, but they couldn't understand why she was gone. Her youngest daughter didn't recognize her and wouldn't go near her. The girl is becoming attached to her mother again. But when France leaves, the first words out of the girl's mouth reflect concern: "Is Mom coming back? When?" James Owen, France's attorney, said she missed the most important time in her children's lives. And nothing can return that, he said. France and her children live in a rent-subsidized apartment. Life is not easy. Her bed is a mattress on the floor. She has struggled to find a job. It doesn't help that her resume includes a 16-month gap she has trouble explaining. "Everybody looks at me as if I'm a drug dealer," she said. Recently, her 3-year-old was nearly dismissed from preschool because France couldn't afford a $20 certified copy of the girl's birth certificate. A school official paid for it, and the child is still enrolled. Lucas, the DEA agent, has declined to speak about the case. Bray has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for perjury and violating civil rights related to the Mansfield cases. He is cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department's internal investigation of the case. His attorney, John McCaffrey, has urged a detailed look into how the DEA handled Bray. In the entire mess, France wants to know the answer to one question: "Why me?" she said. "Why would anyone be so mad at me? Of all the women in Mansfield, why me? Because I didn't go out on a date? Why do that to me over something so dumb?" Pubdate: Tue, 22 Jan 2008 
Source: Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) 
Copyright: 2008 The Plain Dealer 
Contact: letters 
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