According to the new BJS report, "Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004," 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug violations are serving time for marijuana offenses. Combining these percentages with separate U.S. Department of Justice statistics on the total number of state and federal drug prisoners suggests that there are now about 33,655 state inmates and 10,785 federal inmates behind bars for marijuana offenses. The report failed to include estimates on the percentage of inmates incarcerated in county and/or local jails for pot-related offenses.
Multiplying these totals by U.S. DOJ prison expenditure data reveals that taxpayers are spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison pot offenders.
The new report is noteworthy because it undermines the common claim from law enforcement officers and bureaucrats, specifically White House drug czar John Walters, that few, if any, Americans are incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. In reality, nearly 1 out of 8 U.S. drug prisoners are locked up for pot.
California about $14 billion a year, it has been estimated that legalizing marijuana could generate anywhere between $1.5 and $4 billion (from taxing the drug) in revenue for California, a boost that we most undeniably need.
Additionally, our country as a whole spends $68 billion a year on its prisoners, one-third of which are imprisoned for nonviolent drug crimes. About half of these criminals are marijuana offenders, which means one-sixth of our country’s prisoners are in jail for marijuana-related charges. Legalizing the drug would mean spending $11.3 billion less a year on prisons (that’s your tax money).
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