Sunday, October 21, 2007

Half of Alabama drug arrests for marijuana possession

There is a shocking article in the Birmingham News today about how the number of drug cases in Alabama are double what was previously thought and that over half of all drug cases in Alabama are for simple marijuana possession. That information isn't what is shocking to me...hell it's what I've been saying for years. The fact that it is being reported is what is shocking!!

Drug Problem Worse based on New Data

Sunday, October 21, 2007
News staff writer

Day breaks in Bessemer, and an unmarked van rumbles over railroad tracks. It turns down a street filled with grand but aging homes and parks behind a rundown frame house, the worst in the neighborhood.

Eight heavily armed men and women dressed in black, with armored vests and helmets, pile out. They smash through the home's rear door, shouting, "Sheriff's department! Search warrant!"

In the war on drugs, it's another skirmish, something that is occurring far more often in Alabama. For the first time, the state Department of Forensic Sciences crime lab is counting drug cases statewide, and it's getting a total that is nearly double what was previously calculated.

Now we know 30,891 drug cases were filed in Alabama in fiscal 2006, said Gary Wallace, chief of drug chemistry at the crime lab.

That's one case for every 150 Alabama residents. It represents more defendants than the entire population of Bessemer, and at that rate in three years the number of people arrested could fill Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama, like the rest of America, has an escalating and costly drug problem. The FBI estimates that adult drug arrests tripled from 1970 to 2005. More than 1.5 million of these arrests occur annually in the U.S. The cost of illicit drug use in 2002 was $181 billion, with $107 billion of that associated with crimes such as murder and robbery, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Carol Roberts, a public information expert for the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, said some police agencies in the state, including the state Department of Public Safety, the state troopers, fail to report their drug arrest numbers. Thus, data are incomplete, she said.

Wallace said the total number of cases handled by the crime lab nonetheless provides a fairly accurate indication of just how many drug arrests are made in Alabama. The lab handles drug cases from all police agencies in Alabama, he said. Everybody sends in their evidence because quantitative and chemical analyses are necessary for criminal prosecution.

So the crime lab is able to accurately count criminal drug cases, which are now pouring into the lab at a rate of 2,800 a month, or about 90 a day, Wallace said.

A typical raid:

The drug operation in Bessemer early one Wednesday morning provided a look at what kinds of charges are typically filed, and what types of drugs are most often seized.

Minutes after deputies crashed through the back door, a bleary-eyed, shirtless man was brought out in handcuffs. "Usually when you do this early in the morning you catch them in bed," said Lt. Paul Hogan, head of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department narcotics division.

Deputies confiscated a 12-gauge shotgun, and two police dogs sniffed out what appeared to be small amounts of crack cocaine and marijuana. The 38-year-old resident of the home was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance.

The overwhelming majority of drug arrests nationwide and statewide are for possession, as opposed to trafficking.

Marijuana was the top illicit drug confiscated last fiscal year in Alabama. According to the crime lab, authorities seized about 2,500 pounds of marijuana in 15,409 cases. That's half the state's caseload for drug violations.

"Lortabs have taken over as the pharmaceutical drug of choice," Wallace said. "Valium led that for a while, but Lortab has taken over."

Wallace said most trends revealed by the statistics aren't surprising. Officials generally know what's being seized because they handle the arrests and paperwork. They also know many types of illegal drugs come and go.

LSD has come and gone several times since the 1960s. It's now gone, with only five seizures of that hallucinogen in fiscal 2006.

But the main drug of choice stays the same, easily topping the number of seizures by police. "The majority is marijuana," Wallace said. "That's pretty standard every year."

One of the deputies participating in the Bessemer raid said it is much easier to zero in on street drugs than prescription drugs. That's because people who abuse prescription drugs usually make their purchases through medical channels. They may shop around for several doctors, or find an unethical doctor willing to write prescriptions for a price, making those kinds of crimes tough to uncover.

Still, Hogan's team of narcotics deputies stays busy, sometimes putting in long days and nights. The deputies started work at 5 a.m. the day of the Bessemer raid, and planned to conduct another operation later that day, and then again at 7 p.m.

"I don't think we're ever going to stomp out drugs totally," Hogan said.

And that is perfectly alright with Officer Hogan because it means he will always have a job! That's what the drug war is. A government jobs program.

And there you have it folks...the unvarnished truth about who is filling up prison cells. Harmeless, mostly peaceful marijuana smokers.

Let's say that all 15,409 people who were arrested in 2006 for simple possession of marijuana were sentenced to one year in jail at $12,000 a year (just for housing in prison). That comes to a whopping $184,908,000 and it does not include the court costs, officer man hours, the loss of employment if the person was employed, the destruction of the family unit if they had a spouse and children, the long term cost to taxpayers to help care for family members left behind and so many other bad things that go along with getting busted for smoking a joint. Now, we know that not all of these people did jail time but they could have and the astronomical dollar figure is really on the low end of the range.

It's time for people to stand up and demand that governmnet stop wasting our tax dollars in this futile and extremely socially harmful manner. Write a letter in response to this story today!! I'll post mine later.


Christie said...

Damnit...this only figures. This infuriates I KNOW it does you too. Looking forward to what you and Ralph do with this one.

alapoet said...

Loretta: Keep up the good work. Keep telling the truth! As long as there are people like fighting the insanity of marijuana laws, I have hope for my beautiful home state of Alabama.