"If Texas were a country, it would have the highest incarceration rate in the world
New Marijuana Law Could Save Texas Taxpayers Millions — If Authorities Use It
Tue, Aug 28, 2007 1:58 pm
more: drug policy news, headline news source: mpp.org
AUSTIN, TEXAS — A new law taking effect Sept. 1 could save Texas taxpayers millions of dollars by allowing police officers to cite individuals found in possession of four ounces or less of marijuana, rather than go through the time-consuming arrest and booking procedure (often involving a night or more in jail) that costs approximately $2,000 per arrest.
"This law is good for Texas, because each marijuana arrest costs Texas taxpayers $2,000, takes a police officer off the street for three to four hours, and fills a space in jail that should instead be used to house a violent criminal," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "By citing instead of arresting marijuana users, Texas will now be safer."
Marijuana possession arrests make up between 6 and 7 percent of all Texas arrests. It has been estimated that each of the state's five largest cities could save over $1 million per year by taking advantage of the law, passed by the legislature as HB 2391. The measure also covers several other misdemeanor offenses, including driving with an invalid license, graffiti, and criminal mischief where the damage is less than $500. The law does not change penalties for marijuana possession or other offenses.
"If Texas were a country, it would have the highest incarceration rate in the world -- higher than even China and Russia," Kampia noted. "Incredibly, literally 1 percent of the entire population of Texas is currently behind bars."
At least one law enforcement official, Bexar County Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg, has already said he expects to ignore the new law, with arrests continuing as usual. That would be a mistake, Kampia said.
"Federal government statistics show no difference in marijuana use rates between states that arrest people for marijuana possession and those that don't," Kampia said. "Ignoring this sensible law will waste tax dollars for no good reason."
With more than 23,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.