I went into criminal justice because I wanted to serve the public. As a corrections official, I thought that by working with inmates I’d be able to help them reintegrate into society, making their lives better and our community safer.
I quickly became disillusioned with that noble idea, however, as I saw that rehabilitation, once the overarching goal of the penal system, was increasingly impeded as Oregon’s prisons were overrun with people whose only crimes were drug-related.
Prison used to be reserved for those who committed what we think of when we hear the word “crime” — murderers, rapists, thieves. But increasingly during the past 40 years, drug users and low-level dealers who’ve committed no offense other than succumbing to the medical problem of substance abuse have been joining those ranks. In order to prosecute those committing these consensual crimes, we’re using resources — police time, court time, jail beds — that could be better spent going after those whose victims are all too real.
Measure 80, the initiative on Oregon’s ballot this November that would regulate marijuana like alcohol, doesn’t solve that problem entirely, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Not only would regulating marijuana free up law enforcement resources to go after the real criminals in society, it would increase public safety in other ways. Right now, the marijuana trade is largely controlled by large and dangerous international drug cartels drawn to the industry because of the huge profits available. Many of these cartels are in Mexico — which by some estimates has lost 60,000 people to drug war-related violence since 2006 — although the U.S. Justice Department reports that Mexican cartels are now operating in more than 1,000 U.S. cities.
The majority of those cartels’ revenue comes from marijuana sales. If marijuana becomes legal and grown by local farmers, so that the revenue stays in the state and taxes go to funding schools and hospitals, cartels’ profits disappear. Just as organized crime took a major blow when alcohol prohibition was lifted in 1933, so too will public safety be improved when marijuana is sold at regulated stores, where people know they’re getting a safe product, rather than by criminals on the street.
– Read the entire article at Oregon Live.