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The argument for decriminalizing drug possession

Law enforcement in Minnesota and the rest of the nation arrest people for drug possession more than any other type of offense. According to a report released by the Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, low-level drug offenses, such as those for personal use and possession, should be decriminalized.

Over 1.25 million people are arrested each year for drug possession. In 2015, for every four people arrested for possession or using drugs, only one person was arrested for selling the drugs. Almost half of the drug arrests are for just marijuana.

According to the report, which focused on data gathered from Louisiana, Florida, New York and Texas, the approach of using arrests as a deterrent has done little to curtail the use of drugs. The report suggests that harm reduction, education and prevention should be tools used by policymakers to combat the drug problem.

Disturbing practices that occur in every aspect of the criminal justice system were also discussed in the report. There were many examples of police officers employing illegal tactics to meet their arrest quotas. These tactics, which primarily target communities of color, included intimidation, threats, illegal searches and seizures and taking advantage of citizens who are not aware of their rights. The misdeeds of prosecutors and the consequences of the criminal justice debt were also detailed in the report. The policy of incarceration for personal drug possession has a long-term, negative impact on individuals and does not stop drug use. The decriminalization of drugs is necessary, but it has to be coupled with an investment in public health.

Law enforcement is actively pursuing arrests for personal drug possession. If an individual is facing drug charges, a criminal law attorney can see whether the client's rights were violated during the search that led to the seizure of the drugs. If there was no warrant and no probable cause for the search, the evidence could be ruled inadmissable at trial.

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Juvenile Criminal
Defense Strategies

Christa Jacqueline Groshek
© 2012 Aspatore Books from
Thomson Reuters Westlaw.
Reproduced by permission