Pro-drug individuals and organized groups mislead the public, elected officials, and their supporters … I believe they do so intentionally. They claim that great numbers of marijuana users are in prisons for simple possession of marijuana.
To borrow a line from the late Paul Harvey, “and now, the rest of the story!”
In spite of being factually incorrect, this concept continues to resonate with the public. Legalizers use this misinformation to pressure lawmakers to change the laws (the basis for decriminalization efforts), and to radicalize their followers, yet information refuting the myths is readily available.
To illustrate the use of FBI data to support the premise that prisons are full of pot smokers, though there are several doing this, the following was taken from one pro-drug website: [ 1 ]
“In 2004, 44.2% of the 1,745,712 total arrests in the US for drug abuse violations were for marijuana . . . Of those, 684,319 were arrested for possession alone.” [ 2 ]
When one searches out the truth, there’s much more to the story.
* As the endnotes specify, the number used in this propaganda is for arrests, not individuals, and people often get arrested for multiple offenses.
* 32.4% of convictions were for drug offences, not necessarily possession.
* 12.1% of convictions were for drug “possession”.
* Of those arrested convicted and sentenced, 56% had 3 or more prior convictions.
* of the 12.1% convicted for possession, 34% of them, went to prison – that represented 4% of all convictions.
* The massive numbers of people in prison for marijuana, are / were smugglers and distributors.
* These skewed facts ignore that when a person actually is incarcerated for simple possession, invariably it’s because they’ve cooperated and been allowed to plead to a lesser charge!
* 1.7% of all convictions for drugs, were for marijuana
The truth is a much different story from those who want to raise money for defense purposes, rally their supporters, and promote legalization causes, isn't it?
Rand Corporation’s Drug Policy Research Center examined pre- and post-initiative prison-sentence data for low-level prisoners.
The pre-passage data supported prosecutors’ contentions that offenders convicted on low-level drug charges generally had more severe and extensive criminal histories and were involved with multiple drugs. Marijuana users were not overcrowding prisons in the two states as characterized by the pro-drug advocates and their financial backers (Soros, Sperling, et al.).
The University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research published information on a study analyzing data from the “Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 1997". It was found that charges for the majority (85%) of prisoners derived from drug distribution. Of the remaining prisoners sentenced for use/ possession, just 1.9% of those were imprisoned without any indication of involvement in distribution or a non-drug violation.
The data presented are consistent across all sources and support the fact that state prisons are not housing prisoners convicted for simple marihuana possession. Sufficient data are readily available, both current and historical. Public policy decisions should be based upon factual information, not enduring myths.
[ 1 ] Drug War Facts, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Kevin Zeese, President, http://www.drugwarfacts.org/marijuana.htm. Other web sites carrying this data include NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, RC Net, et al. Citing the FBI Uniform Crime Report 2004.
[ 2 ] 1,745,712 total arrests x 39.2% of arrests for possession = 684,319 arrests, NOT the number of people arrested.
By John English
Portland Drug Policy Examiner
July 6, 2009