By Anne Ward, Corvallis
I support restructuring the drug policy in the USA for fiscal and social reasons. I am heartened to see a petition circulating in Montana to put a measure on the 2012 ballot that would end criminal penalties for adult marijuana related activities. This is something we can do locally to address a serious financial and social problem we have in Montana and the rest of the US—The War on Drugs.
The 2011 Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) Biennial Report has drug possession listed as the number 1 conviction offense for men and women in Montana for the period spanning from 2005-2010. Sadly, 5 of the top 10 conviction offenses for women are related to drugs (possession, fraudulently obtaining, distribution of, drug offenses from other states, possession with the intent to distribute), as are 3 of the top 10 for men. It is estimated that 50% of these convictions are for marijuana.
Of those Montanans convicted of possession of drugs between 2005-2010 (2367 people), 26% (617 people) received prison terms averaging about 7 years, 3.5 spent in prison and 3.5 on parole or in other contract programs. The average cost to house an offender in prison is $105/day, and the costs related to DOC supervision of the remaining 74% range from $5-193/day. In excess of $100,000,000 was spent in the period spanning 2005-2010 to incarcerate Montana men and women for the nonviolent crime of POSSESSION of drugs.
The monetary cost of conviction, supervision and incarceration of nonviolent citizens who are found in possession of drugs cannot be justified. Please do your part to end this senseless waste of taxpayer money and citizen’s lives by signing the petition to remove criminality associated with adult use of marijuana, and follow it up with a vote on the 2012 MT ballot.