As California crashes into the financial sea, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is ignoring easy money from simple changes in approach to drugs. California’s drug policy, like America’s, has always chosen a harm maximization approach. This most expensive drug policy option was modified and made more just and less expensive by California voters decriminalizing medical marijuana. Yet opportunities for saving money (and human anguish) surround Gov. Schwarzenegger like low hanging fruit. So far, he seems blind to them.
SF Gate reports Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has “outlined a plan to save $1.2 billion in prison spending by changing the criminal justice system so that fewer people are sent to prison and fewer parolees are sent back to prison.”
- Some items on the governor’s list of reforms is greatly needed in a state bleeding money by incarcerating 167,000 of its citizens, in good part for the benefit of the prison guards’ union. Many of these reforms, however, involve crimes with actual victims. Car theft (for cheap cars, at least) would not be a felony, for example.
- Instead of “reforming” laws for crimes with actual victims, the governor could do much better revamping enforcement of drug “crimes” where any crime is consensual, and, in any case, is really the business of the California citizen, not the business of self-serving state bureaucrats.
- Crimes committed by people on drugs, should be enforced, but overwhelmingly crimes committed while on drugs center on the legal drug, alcohol.
- On the recreational level, arrests for cannabis possession fuel alcohol consumption and abuse. Alcohol is a far more powerful drug than cannabis. Alcohol intoxication is often associated with belligerence and violence; a cannabis high is never the cause of violence. For California, as elsewhere, cannabis is a SAFER alternative to alcohol.
The current wasteful approach was well demonstrated last winter, when the California budget tsunami was on the horizon, police in northern California had the excess resources to waste on outlandishly lavish marijuana busts. Consider the utter stupidity and waste of sending 100 armored cops into 2 tiny northern California High School to arrest a few students for cannabis “crimes.” These drug cops should have to get real jobs doing real work, not padding the pensions with unwarranted but cinematic shows of force.
The governor should drop the current costly harm maximization approach approach to drug use in California and adopt more effective and far less costly harm minimization.
- A rational harm minimization tactic would be to end all marijuana arrests.
- Since cannabis is so blatantly misrepresented as a Schedule 1 drug, all the laws, regulations and mandatory minimums associated with Schedule 1 status should be thrown out the window.
- California prisons should be emptied of those whose “crime” involved cannabis.
The state of California could save huge sums of money by not inflicting needless, useless arrests, prosecutions and incarceratons for cannabis “crimes” with no victims.