Legalize Pot, Save Money?

One of the big reasons Sen. Martin Looney is citing as he pitches his marijuana decriminalization bill is that the measure would actually save the state a considerable amount of money. And in these times, the idea of saving some money makes lawmakers sit up and take notice (even if it doesn’t help them meet statutory deadlines).

The bill “represents a compassionate and pragmatic policy,” Looney said. “Our state should not encourage illegal drug use. However, possession of marijuana for personal use should not leave a person with a lifelong criminal record.”
 
The majority leader also argued the bill would save money — reducing costs to police departments, the court system, and the offices of the public defenders and the state’s attorneys.
 
According to the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, there were 9,928 marijuana arrests in Connecticut in 2007, which represented about 7 percent of arrests statewide. It’s estimated that approximately 33 percentof those arrests were for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana.
 
OFA estimates the bill could save state government $11 million a year and generate $320,000.

The problem, of course, is that in 2007 Gov. Rell vetoed a bill legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. This bill could meet with a similar fate, even if it passes the legislature. Then again, the governor is now someone who favors saving money more than anything else, so anything is possible.

Source
Phaneuf, Keith. “Senate leader backs bill to decriminalize marijuana.” Journal-Inquirer 25 March, 2009.

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28 responses to “Legalize Pot, Save Money?

  1. They simply can’t get it right – EVER!

    It’s sooooo obvious too.

    ● De-Criminalize Pot ● Tax Doritos ● Problem Solved ●

  2. This only works if it saves more money or raises more money. So, the fine should be much higher at least $300.

    However, marijuana use will certainly increase. Thus, we should follow the lead of the recent Economist article and stop the war on drugs in general.

    http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=13237193

  3. This only works if it saves more money or raises more money. So, the fine should be much higher at least $300.

    We should reserve higher fines for people that won’t get out of the left lane or (worse) allow their effing crabgrass to go to seed thus sharing it with the whole neighborhood.

    If we’re going to ban some plant, let’s start with the annoying ones.

    I doubt use will increase by much; with the exception of almost-geezers having a toke or two for the 1st time in decades after they dig out their King Crimson albums.

    Hey Rubenstein, you in?

  4. The argument on saving money is that we will spend less money enforcing and prosecuting these violations. But unless they close courts, cut staffing at police departments, courts and probation, and drop a judge or two, there are no savings. You will simply be paying the same salaries and costs to go after and try fewer people. This is an attempt to use the budget shortfall to justify legalizing pot. So at least be honest about it.

  5. Bruce Rubenstein

    ACR…yes…count me in….im dusting off my Doors,Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane albums and framing my Woodstock ticket….

  6. Since I am not up on the drug use/effects:

    Does legalization pose increased danger to the public, through drug impacted drivers or pedestrians or other acts by those under the influence?

    That should be a primary consideration. Yes, I know we already have these drivers, walkers but will teh danger increase?

  7. I’m not certain, but I was under the impression that driving under the influence of marijuana was treated similarly to driving drunk. I would guess it has a similar effect, too.

    I think the real benefit of legalizing pot, which will dwarf the savings on the spending side, is if we tax it. If it was up to me, the pot tax would replace the cigarette tax.

    Which reminds me: ACR, is this getting ridiculous or what? I feel like a New Hampshire road trip is in my future.

  8. One word…..Looney…..the idea is just assinine. If we legalize murder and robbery think how much more money we would save right?

  9. CrankyYankee71

    This is a good idea, except I would prefer to add or substitute community service as the fine.

    I would also add a provision that anyone taking State aid should lose it, at least for a time, if they are cited. (This is same logic the government is using with corporate bonuses – if you get tax-payer money, the government has the right to control that money and direct how it may or may not be used.)

  10. Does legalization pose increased danger to the public, through drug impacted drivers or pedestrians or other acts by those under the influence?

    Not necessarily, according to this 1999 study from the University of Toronto.

    “Marijuana Induces Minimum Driving Impairment Compared to Alcohol, Toronto Study Says”

    “Drivers under the influence of marijuana pose far fewer risks on roadways than do drivers intoxicated by alcohol, a new University of Toronto study suggests. The study corroborates earlier research demonstrating that marijuana is not a significant causal factor in traffic accidents.”

    The rest of a story about the study is here:
    http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=3961

  11. retiredyes asked:

    Does legalization pose increased danger to the public, through drug impacted drivers or pedestrians or other acts by those under the influence?

    Uh…I can’t remember.

    Seriously though there was a comedy routine that went like this:

    Officer to pulled over driver: “Do you know how fast you were going?”
    Driver: “uh…..65?”
    Officer: “No…..6”

    Jim said:

    Which reminds me: ACR, is this getting ridiculous or what? I feel like a New Hampshire road trip is in my future.

    The latest hike(s) should be nearly over as they’ve been done in anticipation of next Wednesday’s SCHIP implantation.

    Current Connecticut State minimum prices and other data can be found here:
    http://ctcigarette.blogspot.com/

    Price spreadsheet.

    S-CHIP tax increases (before and after)

    Remember, it’s for the children so if someone gives you any trouble about your smoke you can now say: You must not care about the poor children – what sort of horrid animal are you anyway?

  12. One word…..Looney…..the idea is just assinine. If we legalize murder and robbery think how much more money we would save right?

    The problem with your argument, adb67, is that marijuana doesn’t kill. The illegality of other, harder, more addictive substances like heroin may lead to robbery (witness the spree of art thefts in New Haven http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2009/03/39_paintings_st.php ).

    But overall, marijuana, compared with the legal drugs available to people now, is a far more benign substance that in many instances, can have a positive medicinal effect. I won’t now reiterate the arguments of Dr. Lester Grinspoon and a dozen other states that have passed mmj laws.

    However, as I have argued in the past, decrminalization stops short, we need to legalize outright, and it will happen in our lifetimes.

    While huge applause goes out to Senator Looney for leading the charge in the Senate, decriminalization doesn’t allow the government to tax the substance. If we want to confront the budget crisis effectively, we have to bring underground substances like weed above ground, into a forum where it can be taxed.

    Furthermore, in Albany, the New York State legislature looks as if it is chopping down its mandatory minimum, harsh Rockefeller-era drug laws.

  13. We should reserve higher fines for people that won’t get out of the left lane or (worse) allow their effing crabgrass to go to seed thus sharing it with the whole neighborhood.

    Speaking of which, ACR— now that winter is over, what can I do to prevent the crabgrass and dandelions from coming up… what chemicals would you recommend? Is there any way to fit re-seeding in between chemical applications?

  14. Speaking of which, ACR— now that winter is over, what can I do to prevent the crabgrass and dandelions from coming up… what chemicals would you recommend? Is there any way to fit re-seeding in between chemical applications?

    I gave up years ago; but found that organic stuff while more expensive seemed to last longer after a few year build up as it seems to improve the soil conditions overall while the chemicals polute the water table and only give the lawn a quick blast.
    Drop a crabgrass pre-emergent when the forsythia are in full bloom.

    However, as I have argued in the past, decrminalization stops short, we need to legalize outright, and it will happen in our lifetimes.

    Don’t hold your breath; even my own kid thinks legalizing pot would be a horrible idea. We’ve got a generation of Boy Scouts behind us and they won’t help poor old dad have a J before he’s in his grave.

    If we legalize murder and robbery think how much more money we would save right?

    Not robbery; that’s stealing we can’t have that going on.

    But even if murder were legal it wouldn’t create an increase save for the 1st week or so as the murderee’s families would take retribution.
    Within a month NO ONE would be knocking anyone else off for fear of getting whacked back.

    Not suggesting we try that idea out to see if I’m right however.

  15. Make no mistake – some dolts in here occasionally take me seriously (how dumb is that anyway?)

    I’mlibertarian/Republican as opposed to social conservative/Republican thus my POV on Looney’s bill; but I haven’t even seen any pot in over 30 years.

  16. I don’t have a lot of statistics on this, but a quick search revealed the Office of Legislative Research Report from Dec 2006 about Sentenced Prison Population.

    At the time of the report, 64 people were serving time in Connecticut Prisons for “21a-279(c) POSSESS LESS THAN 4 OZ MARIJUANA OR CONTROLLED SUB”

    According to another OLR report from Feb 2008, the average cost of incarceration in Connecticut is $44,165.

    So, for cost of incarceration for people convicted of having less than four ounces of pot, the cost to the State is just shy of $3 million.

    Then, there are court costs. I don’t know how many marijuana cases are tried each year in Connecticut or the cost of these cases. However, based on a report on National Public Radio about other states seeking to decriminalize not only possession of small amounts of marijuana, but numerous other offenses as well.

    I don’t recall the details, but as I understand it, you must be provided a public defender if there is the possibility of jail time, but not if you are merely facing a fine. I also seem to recall that the folks pushing hardest for some of these reforms are coming out of a conservative think tank, but I don’t recall which one.

  17. Bruce, ACR,

    Now we guys are talking:

    “ACR…yes…count me in….im dusting off my Doors,Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane albums and framing my Woodstock ticket….”

    Don’t forget your CSN&Y albums, don’t tell me an old SDS guy like you dosen’t still have all of them!!! :-)………Now all we need to find is a turn table.

  18. Aldon Hynes wrote

    I also seem to recall that the folks pushing hardest for some of these reforms are coming out of a conservative think tank, but I don’t recall which one.

    Bill Buckley and his National Review were pushing for this as far back as 1988 or so.

    And ACR, I’m not sure how much older you are than I, but I’m betting that within 20 years, cannabis sativa is taxed and regulated in these United States.

    The Supreme Court in 1972, in revoking the reporter’s privilege to not testify in front of a grand jury (Branzburg v. Hayes) – called the marijuana crimes that the reporter Branzburg witnessed “serious.” The SCOTUS hasn’t much changed its tune.

    And until 1998, medical marijuana didn’t much have a foothold. But in the 11 years since California passed its mmj law, 12 other states have followed.
    That’s more than one state a year. And but for Gov. Rell, it would be 13 states. 17 more, at the rate of one a year, and we have enough to force a Constitutional amendment.

    The tide is turning on the insanity of the drug war. As people realize that marijuana is not the demon that the federal government has portrayed it to be, the progression will be more geometric than mathematical.

  19. CrankyYankee71

    17 more, at the rate of one a year, and we have enough to force a Constitutional amendment.

    I agree with your points, but this is not a Constitutional issue. The Constitution is best looked at for broad concenpts of freedom, liberty and limitations on government power, not specific issues like this.

  20. CrankyYankee71 wrote:

    I agree with your points, but this is not a Constitutional issue. The Constitution is best looked at for broad concenpts of freedom, liberty and limitations on government power, not specific issues like this.

    How else do we explain the 18th and 21st Amendments?

  21. However, as I have argued in the past, decrminalization stops short, we need to legalize outright, and it will happen in our lifetimes.

    You’re such a liberal.

    NO

    Legalization will allow the government “in” and as always we can bet on them making a mess because that’s what they do best.

    Take a look at our liquor laws where we “allow” package store owners to sell cigarettes but not cigars and heaven help them if they get caught selling lighters.

  22. So, for cost of incarceration for people convicted of having less than four ounces of pot, the cost to the State is just shy of $3 million.

    And if every single one of those 64 people in jail for having four ounces or less of pot had more than ONE ounce on them, they would still be in jail under the current law.

  23. CrankyYankee71

    How else do we explain the 18th and 21st Amendments?

    Ken, not quite sure of your point, but even you, as a law student with one(?) Constitutional law class under your belt, can see how well that worked out.

    I don’t think there are too many people, never mind legal scholars, who would agree that the 18th amendment worked or should be tried with other singular issues, otherwise the result is that the Constitution begins to look like those of states that have voter initiatives, e.g., the Constituion winds up addressing things such as the amount of cage space farm animals need like the Fla. state constitution

  24. Bruce Rubenstein

    im supporting ACR for Governor because of his catchy campaign slogan….instead of the Al SMith slogan…” a chicken in every pot” ACR’s campaign slogan is ” pot in every chicken” LMAOOOOO

  25. Bruce Rubenstein

    Al….I was in SDS….and Weatherman also…

  26. Bruce Rubenstein

    I disagree with Aldon where he says that its mostly conservatives that might want marajuana decriminalized if not legalized…im no conservative and im for either….the polling ive seen on the issue is all over the lot and tends to break down more about how one views personal liberty and freedom…

  27. Great to see more people talking about decriminalizing drugs. The “war on drugs” is elevating the levels of violence, the dangers of unknown drug quality at purchase, the jailing of people who need medical treatment instead, and the waste of huge sums of money on surveillance and trials and incarceration.

    We need regulated use on “recreational” drugs like we have on tobacco and alcohol (the deadliest of our addictions), where each purchase is restricted to those who are adults and sales are accompanied by medical information and a tax to pay for those who are made ill from its use.

    If we could have a small portion of the money we spend on the drug war for elliminating the reasons for abuse, and elliminate the war itself, society would be safer, more humane, and richer.

  28. …more about how one views personal liberty and freedom…

    I think we agree.

    Seems there are those that are simply hell-bent to impose themselves where they don’t belong.

    It’s all over the place too.
    The Litchfield Chabad, the Wallingford Mosque, smoking in small privately owned breakfast diners, some traffic regulations, pretty much all firearm laws, and of course these moronic illegal drug industry price protection laws.

    Considering the amount of collateral crime caused by artificially high illegal drug prices (which of course creates the enormous profits dealers enjoy in the 1st place and requires the constant promotion of such drugs.

    De-criminalized, the profits drop like a rock leaving dealers no margin and no way or reason to further promote their product line to “new users”.

    Gun violence drops by 87% on the spot.
    Who should we protect?
    The poor guy working a the midnight shift at the all night convenience store or the moron doing drugs?

    Maybe it’s time to consider those that OD due to ready access to drugs as part of the “natural selection”.

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