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Criminal defense attorneys busy with growing arrests for pot

Arrests for marijuana possession in Pennsylvania were up by 33 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to a report issued by the American Civil Liberties Union. The law enforcement trend in the state disproportionately targeted African-Americans, who are now eight times more likely to be arrested for possession than whites, even though usage of the drug is similar among persons of different races. The study has resulted in calls from various officials and some criminal defense attorneys for legalization of the drug.

Other statistics highlight the incongruities in the current policy trend. For example, taxpayers in the state have paid the bill of about $225.3 million to enforce the marijuana laws between 2010 and 2016, per a fiscal analysis report of the RAND corporation. These enforcement costs have come amidst the passage of a medical marijuana bill in Pennsylvania and despite decriminalization laws in Philadelphia that have drastically reduced arrests for the drug in that area.

The executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania commented that the increased enforcement rates for marijuana possession were accompanied by a 30 percent decline in arrests for  marijuana sales in the state. That incongruous report tends to indicate that law enforcement agencies are spending inordinate amounts of time on low-level offenders. This has had a disproportionately ravaging effect on family unity and stability among African-American families.

Similar studies have repeatedly concluded similar findings throughout the country. Although the policy may keep criminal defense attorneys busy defending low-level violations, it makes no sense and is inimical to the trend of legalization that continues to grow nationwide. The positive budgetary effect of legalization has prompted the state's Auditor General to call for legalization of recreational marijuana. The ACLU spokesperson commented that Pennsylvania law enforcement is still attempting to wage the failed war drugs, which is a policy that inflicts unfair harm on African Americans.

Source: phillyvoice.com, "ACLU: Marijuana arrests on the rise in Pennsylvania", MIchael Tanenbaum, Oct. 16, 2017

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