Decriminalizing Marijuana saves California $1 billion per year

Okay, most studies are boring.  But in a world filled mostly with bad news i was quite pleased to read that 9,000 few youths are being arrested in California each year because of the decriminalization of marijuana in that state.  The study by the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice called “California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low” is not a bad 9 page read.  But let me give you some highlight, so you can get on with your day.

  • Youth arrests are down 20% in 2011 from 2010, putting them at the lowest level since statistics were first compiled starting in 1954
  • All youth crimes are down.  Homicide down 26%, violent felonies down 16%, misdemeanors down 21% non-marijuana drug felons down 36% since 2011
  • These declines are not explained by demographic or structural factors. Liberalizing marijuana laws are countered by toughening of rape and other laws and overall policing is down, which was forecasted to lead to higher crime rates.

So what is happening?  On the marijuana front the report states

Effective in 1976, SB 95 downgraded low-level possession (less than
one ounce) of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor, and effective on January 1, 2011, SB 1449 reduced most simple marijuana possessions to an infraction involving a mere citation rather than criminal arrest.

It is worth noting that the reason Governor Schwarzenegger dropped possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction was a last ditch effort to stop the statewide referendum on legalization, which failed by a thin margin.

california youth arrest rates

In 2010, 15,000 youth were convicted of possession, in 2011 that dropped to 5800.  At about $100,000 cost to the state per conviction, this is nearly a billion dollar savings.  But far more importantly, this is over 9,000 kids lives that did not get screwed up unnecessarily.

Turns out the war on soft drugs was a huge mistake.  Who knew?

Here is the HuffPost piece which pointed me to this study.