Report: Marijuana enforcement failing, biased

As Californians keep gathering petition signatures for marijuana legalization ballot measures and a state lawmaker rewrites his legalization bill, marijuana reform advocates today are touting a new report that finds no relationship between marijuana arrest and use rates – a sign that the “war on drugs” has failed as far as cannabis is concerned, they say.

In fact, the report by Jon Gettman, Adjunct Assistant Professor in Criminal Justice at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA, finds the current system of criminal penalties encourages uses to buy a little bit at a time, acting as a price support for the illegal market.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the report finds that although the rate of marijuana use is only about 25 percent higher for African-Americans than for whites, African-Americans are three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites.

“These figures paint a devastating portrait of a failed policy that burns through tax dollars while doing nothing but harm,” Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia said in a news release. “Most Americans agree that marijuana prohibition doesn’t work, even if most politicians aren’t yet ready to publicly agree with their constituents.”

It should be noted that the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation funded the report, and that Gettman’s curriculum vitae indicates he’s more of a pro-cannabis activist than an independent, objective academic. That said, the data is what it is.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

One Comment

  1. There’s no question the war on marijuana is a failed effort. Politicians in California need to stop wasting our tax dollars on this fruitless endeavor and regulate marijuana like they do alcohol and tobacco. I believe we are getting closer to the end of the fight, but in the meantime, we must continue to encourage our politicians and law enforcement to focus our tax dollars where it can really make a difference. In an equally frustrating waste of money, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are prepared to waste over a million dollars a year on an overpriced service contract.

    Last year, the L.A. County Department of Public Social Services procured for vendor services to operate the county’s GAIN case management services (essentially a welfare to work program). Two bids came in from the incumbent company (Maximus, Inc.) and Policy Studies Inc. (PSI). The two companies were scored by a neutral third party, and PSI beat Maximus solidly in several categories, including performance and bid price. Maximus protested, but the findings were upheld on 3 levels and PSI was recommended by DPSS to receive the contract.

    The Board of Supervisors disagreed. They rejected the recommendation with 3 votes. They claimed the process of consensus scoring somehow concealed bias from the DPSS, though no specific evidence of this bias was ever presented. Furthermore, this scoring process was documented as a valid process which had been used for years prior to 2008, and the same process whereby the incumbent Maximus had been recommended and awarded. The BOS then directed the DPSS to extend Maximus’ contract for 6 months while they reissue the RFP and devise a new scoring method.

    The BOS also expressed some superficial concern that the cost of the contract may exceed county requirements (see County Prop A). Although language could’ve easily been built into the contract to ensure cost neutrality/savings, the BOS rejected that argument and asked DPSS to review their contract monitoring costs for possible reductions and eliminate or reduce pay for performance provisions that could drive up the overall contract cost should the vendor outperform expectations.

    The reissue of this RFP makes no fiscal sense whatsoever, particularly given the dire state of California’s economy. What’s more, the state faces federal penalties to the tune of approximately $185 million if they do not meet a preexisting federal threshold. Why is the BOS insisting on spending MORE of our tax dollars in an effort to maintain their business relationship with Maximus – a company whose performance was scored lower and contract priced higher than PSI? (The county has estimated the cost to reissue the RFP to be $250,000). If PSI had been chosen, their contract would save the county over one million dollars annually. What’s going on here?

    An LA Times article from last year exposed just how entangled Maximus is with the BOS. In the first half of 2008, Maximus spent over $124,000 on two lobbying firms, more than doubling what they spent on marketing in the past year. Perhaps even more troubling, Maximus donated $1,000 (the maximum allowed) to the campaigns to re-elect supervisors Don Knabe and Michael D. Antonovich. They even gave $1,000 to two members whose terms had 2 years left to run.

    In these lean times, something else must be motivating the board’s decisions, because it’s certainly not the bottom line.

Comments are closed.