All posts tagged: NORML

The Financial Waste of Illegal Marijuana

marijuana law reformSince Colorado legalized marijuana, we’ve seen numerous stories about the windfall of tax revenue reaped by the state. Money that is being used for education and social services.

What we’ve heard less about is the windfall reaped by the tax payers of Colorado no longer funding law enforcement efforts to interdict marijuana sales.

Consider the case here in Allegheny County of Jennifer Chieu, convicted of being the ringleader of a group that imported marijuana from California to the Pittsburgh area. The multi-million dollar ring was investigated extensively, eventually 19 people including Chieu.

(Read the Post-Gazette article here.)

 

Had Pennsylvania followed the lead of what are now 4 states with total legalization, they would have literally put Chieu out of business, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the costs of this single investigation, while reaping tax revenue for improving roads, services, education and drug treatment options for truly destructive drugs like heroin. Add to that the costs of imprisoning 19 people for periods of up to 11 years, and the cost of this one bust easily goes over the million dollar mark.

 

As an attorney, I actually work against my own financial interests fighting for legalization. After all, those people getting busted for pot need a lawyer. But I don’t want to earn money from injustice on a scale that infects the whole legal system with waste and encourages people like Chieu to take a chance at big money. And it truly breaks my heart that I sometimes find myself defending people whose only crime was seeking desperately needed medicine.

 

Marijuana cases clog up the court system with non-violent offenders. They occupy the time of Police, forcing them to waste resources arresting people for something even most cops will admit is harmless.

 

As was recently seen in the city of Philadelphia, minorities are arrested for marijuana possession at an alarmingly higher rate than whites, even though usage is proportionally equal. This was at the core of their city council’s recent decision to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. You can bet that for a major metropolis that like most big cities is strapped for cash, the costs of policing marijuana use also played a significant role in their decision. Although that’s short of legalization, it does remove the stigma of a drug arrest appearing on the record and reduces it to a summary offense, requiring a greatly reduced amount of resources for the city to enforce.

 

So the next time you read a story about how much tax revenue is being generated by legal marijuana in states like Colorado or Washington, consider the millions of dollars being saved– Dollars that law enforcement can now direct toward protecting the public from real crime.

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Patrick NightingaleThe Financial Waste of Illegal Marijuana
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Politics as Usual: PA House “Tables” Medicinal Marijuana Bill

“All politics is local.”

An insight that is often lost in today’s global information age.

An event that occurs on the other side of the planet is transmitted around the world in a matter of minutes, magnified by the intensity of the coverage.

Perhaps that explains, at least in part, the overall feeling of confidence that Pennsylvania’s Medicinal Marijuana Bill would easily pass the House vote, especially after receiving overwhelming, bi-partisan support in the State Senate.

After all, marijuana is legal in two states and medicinal marijuana is legal in various forms in 21 states, with more on the way. With all the news about Colorado and tax revenues and lower crime rates, it made it seem all we had to do was get past Governor Corbett, who has said he would veto any proposed legalization, medicinal or otherwise.

Getting through the House would be a breeze after the victory in the Senate.

But, was the bill passed by the Senate really a victory?

Many of the original Bill’s provisions were altered or removed altogether, making it a shell of it’s former self.

As a defense attorney, I’m not surprised that this ‘deal’ offered by the Senate falls far short or what the law needs to be in order to serve justice.

The whole point has been rendered moot by the House leadership’s move to table the bill until they could form their own committee and do their own investigation, even though the exact same evidence that convinced the Senate will be presented again.

At first glance, it would be natural to react with disappointment at the news, yet a look beyond suggests, despite the fact that patients will continue to either suffer of be forced to break the law, the House may have unwittingly done the medicinal movement a favor.

The Bill, in it’s current state, was frankly inadequate. By tabling the Bill till the 2015 session, the House has opened the door to a new attempt at resubmitting the original Bill, only this time, there’s a good chance a man named Tom Wolf will be Governor.

 

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Patrick NightingalePolitics as Usual: PA House “Tables” Medicinal Marijuana Bill
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