Democratic New Jersey Senator, Cory Booker, recently gave an interview wherein he laid out some very logical, rational reasons to reform our national drug policy and incarceration system.
It boiled down to a matter of proper resource allocation and management. Said Booker, “Would you rather have a nonviolent drug offender with a bunch of marijuana cost us a million dollars for a high mandatory minimum … or would you rather be able to hire two more investigators to investigate insurance fraud? To investigate other white collar crimes that are costing society? Or to protect us against terrorism?”
An interesting question, to be sure. It’s a smart approach because it pulls the issue out of the realm of morality and thrusts it into the arena of practicality.
The question is not whether a person personally supports legalized marijuana — rather it forces us, as citizens, to do a risk assessment and choose the better place to spend our resources. Booker is right on the money, too. States are spending millions of dollars per year incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders when they could easily fund more officers to go after legitimate threats to our society.
Hint: potheads do not pose a serious threat to anyone but those who hate waiting at the drive-thru or are terrified of Frisbees.
The question becomes even more dubious when specifically talking about cannabis. In a country that is rapidly (politically speaking) shifting toward a cannabis-friendly policy, it is even harder to justify wasting millions of dollars annually locking up stoners.
It’s a simple premise, yet a powerful thought exercise. There are only so many agents and resources for law enforcement to utilize, and there are undoubtedly more criminals than we have police to catch them.
So, where would you rather allocate that energy? Busting the least threatening drug known to man or stopping a CEO from defrauding his employee’s pension fund? Should we lock up a harmless pothead and force taxpayers to feed, clothe and care for them while simultaneously removing their potential to contribute to the tax pool themselves? Or should we fund a few more agents to combat human trafficking?
If this is a lesser of two evils comparison, cannabis (likely all nonviolent drug offenders) are the thumbtack compared to the Flaming Spear of Longinus that stands for the actual criminals.
Booker continued, “We’re spending money in the wrong place as a society if we really want to stop the kind of crime that threatens and undermines our economy and our safety.”
If we want to affect real change and stop real crime, we need to first stop distracting ourselves with, and wasting our resources on, failing unfair policies.