Each year Maryland police officers make thousands of drug arrests, costing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and yet there continues to be no visible evidence that the war on drugs is decreasing the amount of drug users in Maryland. Police officers focus a large portion of their time and effort making arrests for possession of cocaine, heroin, and prescription medication throughout Maryland, and especially in Baltimore City. Perhaps the most staggering data comes from the amount of marijuana arrests that Maryland cops make, and the money spent to make these marijuana arrests.
Maryland police officers made almost 25,000 marijuana arrests in 2007 which averages to roughly 440 people arrested for marijuana per 100,000 people in the general population. This according to drugscience.org is the fourth highest cannabis arrest ratio in the country. About 90 percent of these arrests were for possession, while the other 10 percent were for trafficking, sale, or dealing.
More alarming is the amount of money and resources Maryland spends on enforcing its marijuana laws. While Maryland does not have the strictest marijuana laws in the country, millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on police protection, the judicial system, and the corrections department to enforce these laws. Simple possession of marijuana in Maryland is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail for a first time offender. Sale and trafficking of marijuana are both felonies with much larger maximum jail sentences. Sale carries up to 5 years in jail. and may carry a mandatory jail sentence, while trafficking can carry up to a 40 year jail sentence and heavy fines.
In 2006 Maryland spent $3.76 billion on the criminal justice system according to drugscience.org. This is broken down into money spent on the police, the court system, and the division of corrections. In 2006 marijuana arrests accounted for almost 8% of all arrests in the state, which works out to roughly $280 million spend on enforcing the state’s marijuana laws.
There are more than just financial costs that the state of Maryland has to bear in enforcing its marijuana laws. A former Maryland police officer of 33 years who has arrested hundreds of people for drug related crimes told foxnews.com that drugs can be problematic, but the enforcement process can end up being ten times more problematic. The officer described drug raids where kids end up being shot, and search warrants served on the wrong houses. These search warrant mishaps often lead to innocent residents mistakenly defending themselves against police officers, and sometimes being harmed or harming the officers.
The officer also points out that street gang’s main source of income focuses on the sale of illegal drugs such as marijuana. These street gangs depend on the criminalization and enforcement of the marijuana laws as a major portion of their income. With the money generated by the sale and distribution of illegal marijuana, street gangs are able to recruit new members as they become an attractive outlet for young kids.
The financial costs as well as the effect on increased levels of violent gang related crime are undisputed effects of the marijuana laws in Maryland. In part two of this post we will examine the possible benefits as well as the harm that the decriminalization of marijuana in Maryland would cause.
The Herbst Firm is a Maryland criminal law firm specializing in defending marijuana possession and drug possession cases. If you or some one you know has been arrested for a drug crime in Maryland contact Baltimore Marijuana Lawyer, Benjamin Herbst at 410-207-2598 for a free consultation.
Marijuana in Maryland: Arrests, Usage, and Related Data, drugscience.org.
Marijuana Arrests in the United States, drugscience.org.