How Much Does It Cost The Government To Put Cannabis Users In...

How Much Does It Cost The Government To Put Cannabis Users In Jail?

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A new report drafted by the Virginia State Crime Commission turned up some data on how much the state’s taxpayers are spending to jail cannabis users. The report, which was prepared to inform state lawmakers as they consider a proposed measure to decriminalize marijuana, said that Virginia taxpayers sometimes pay more than $10,000 a day to house tokers in jail, as reported by The Washington Post.

They calculated that every inmate in Virginia costs taxpayers $79.28 per day. The amount paid to house cannabis offenders fluctuates day to day with the number of cannabis offendors, but on at least one day in July, the state jailed 127 individuals for playing with the wacky weed, which adds up to more than 10 Gs in taxpayer money for that day alone.

The commission further found that three quarters of those 127 inmates hadn’t even been convicted of a crime, but were merely awaiting sentencing because they couldn’t make bail.

Virginia convicts roughly 10,000 people over first time cannabis possession offenses and has arrested 133,000 people for possession in the last decade. The state and its taxpayers could stand to save a load of dough if lawmakers pass State Bill 1269, which would reduce marijuana possession charges down to simple fines ranging from $100-$500.

Economists have also informed the federal government that legalizing or decriminalizing cannabis would be good for the country’s budget. A 2010 report from Harvard University economics lecturer Jeffrey Miron theorized that the country would save $8.7 billion in law enforcement resources if the country were to legalize cannabis. It would also generate an additional $8.7 billion in tax revenue, totalling a positive difference of $17.4 billion if the country were to legalize marijuana.

Those numbers could even be conservative. Colorado by itself has generated more than half a billion dollars since it legalized marijuana three years ago, and inflation has brought prices up more than 12% since 2010. On the other hand, many states have legalized recreational and/or medical marijuana since 2010, so the total spent on enforcement of cannabis crimes may have gone down.

Photo via Unsplash user Esteban Lopez

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