Drug crimes overpower violent ones

Danny Cozzi

Most of my friends know me for being a joker. Most of the astutely hilarious jokes I tell are blatant and exaggerated lies. I wish this story could be one of those.

Here’s the would-be punch line: Every 42 seconds someone is arrested in America for a marijuana-related offense; 86 percent of those are just from possession of the drug, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

The number of arrests made for marijuana-related offenses in 2011 is 663,032, according to the Huffington Post; there were only 534,704 arrests due to violent crimes in the same year, according to the FBI. So, what that comparison tells me is that America’s law enforcement places stoners and small-time dealers at a higher priority than murderers, rapists and burglars. Those arrested for marijuana violations are completely separate from arrests for people involved in drug violence. Is America’s law enforcement really that lazy? That’s the only explanation I can possibly think of.

Michelle Choda, junior political science major, was also shocked at the numbers.

“They [the police] are focusing too much time on something that isn’t that big of a deal,” Choda said. “They should be focusing energies on things that actually threaten people’s lives.”

On the upside, measures have been taken to reduce the seriousness of marijuana-related offenses. Last year, Chicago enacted an ordinance for police to issue fines for possession of small amounts of marijuana rather than subjecting individuals to arrests. A 2012 article from the Huffington Post said that police can issue tickets between $250 and $500 for suspects carrying up to 15 grams of the drug. But to me, that doesn’t quite cut it.

Let’s break it down Cozzi-style.

We live in a country where people 21 and older can drown themselves to death in alcohol and 18-year-olds can buy a $5 pack of cigarettes for 20 years and die from lung cancer. Both of these drugs are arguably more dangerous than marijuana, yet (ironically) are perfectly legal. And every single day people’s lives are ruined by an unjust law and an exaggerated fear that getting high is a one-way ticket to self-destruction.

We have an overly-capricious drug war that costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year, imprisons far more minorities than it does whites, and prevents sick people from gaining access to medicinal marijuana which may help treat symptoms of various illnesses. And still, with all the government’s efforts, we see no relief from the so-called “evils” of marijuana.

However, I am happy to say that I believe this ridiculous prohibition is fading away and will one day soon be stamped into the pages of history textbooks where it belongs. America is called “the land of the free” for a reason. We’re supposed to have that freedom and the responsibility that comes with it.

I need both hands to count the friends I have who smoke or have smoked marijuana. According to our current drug laws, I am friends with criminals. It’s baffling that in the 21st century, people who roll up a joint and play video games are more likely to be arrested in this country than a murderer is.