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An Exceptionally Bad Argument for Marijuana Legalization, Even for the ACLU

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Niraj Chokshi has this article in the WaPo on the California Lt. Gov.'s drive to legalize marijuana.

The ACLU cast legalizing pot as a solution to overcrowding in the state's prisons, where the incarcerated population has exploded in recent decades. The per capita prison population in 2010 was nearly four times larger than that of 1980, according to official data compiled by the California Sentencing Institute.
Now that is an utterly irrelevant datum offered to support the argument.  The size of the prison population tells us nothing relevant unless we know what portion of that population is in for marijuana.

The most recent California prison census, June 30 of this year, is here.  The total prison population is 134,160.  How many for marijuana?
465.  That's about 1/3 of 1 percent.

Whatever good arguments can be made for marijuana legalization, reducing prison overcrowding isn't one of them.  Saying it is a solution to prison overcrowding is quite possibly the most preposterous statement we have ever heard from the ACLU, and that is saying a lot.

2 Comments

Can we know how many prior strikes might be pot related? Or how many violent crimes may be a result of drug war turf battles?

My guess is that few served time for liquor possession during Prohibition, but there is little doubt the there were notable links between Prohibition, crime and punishment in the 1920s.

I share your view that the ACLU is making a weak argument here, but i also think may be more layers to this relationship than meets the eye.

No marijuana offenses are prior strikes. The drug offense clause of the "serious felony" definition, PC 1192.7(c)(24), is only for furnishing to a minor heroin, cocaine, PCP, or meth.

As for violent crimes as a result of drug war turf battles, it's quite a stretch to hypothesize that they would be reduced by legalizing this one drug. As long as the others remain illegal, the drug gangs will still fight over turf.

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