Tuesday, September 23, 2008

California sees nearly 75,000 marijuana arrests in 2007

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 09/23/2008 01:29:06 AM PDT

The nearly 75,000 marijuana-related arrests in California last year are
prompting marijuana law reform activists to say that laws aren't stopping
people from getting what they want, while local law enforcement responds
that the increased number of arrests is simply the result of tighter
enforcement.

"This has been going on for close to a century now and they're clearly not
eradicating or stopping anything. It just continues," said Dale Gieringer, a
spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

According to the state Department of Justice's Criminal Justice Statistics
Center, 74,119 felony and misdemeanor marijuana arrests were made in 2007, a
jump of nearly 10,000 arrests from 2006, which saw 65,386.

Between 2001 and 2006, the differences from year to year were much smaller.

In Humboldt County alone, more people are getting arrested, and more of
those arrested are getting charged with serious crimes.

The number of marijuana-related arrests in Humboldt nearly doubled between
2006 and 2007, jumping from 564 to 971. In 2006, 138 people were charged
with marijuana felonies, while in 2007 that number ballooned to 550.
Meanwhile, the number of marijuana misdemeanors between the two years has
stayed roughly the same.

Gieringer said the statewide numbers are the highest since 1990, which he
says is a sign that these arrests are only wasting taxpayer money.

Marijuana should be legalized and taxed like alcohol, he said.

Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said while there may be some
legitimate reasons to legalize marijuana, increased arrests is not one of
them.

"I don't think the increased arrest is any indication that this needs to be
legalized," he said. "It's no more than if murder went up that we should
legalize murder."

Gallegos said there could be more marijuana in the streets, but more arrests
could also mean an increase in the amount of resources dedicated to
intercepting the drug, as demonstrated by recent federal activity.

"There's been an increase of federal presence, and there's going to be more
increases of fed presence," he said. "What they're seeing is law enforcement
saying, enough is enough."

The main source of the jump in numbers from 2006 to 2007 is felony arrests,
the Criminal Justice Statistics Center numbers show. In 2006, there were
13,548 felony arrests made while 16,124 felony arrests were made in 2007.

The state Department of Justice's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, or
CAMP, has also been eradicating more marijuana plants.

Last year the agency pulled 271,000 plants in Humboldt County, up from just
59,000 in 2006.

But Humboldt County Sheriff's Department Spokeswoman Brenda Godsey said the
destruction of those plants probably doesn't add much to the state's arrest
numbers. The Sheriff's Department works closely with CAMP to target
large-scale commercial grows.

"In Humboldt County our efforts are particularly in outdoor grows and
because they can be so dangerous we make a deliberate effort to be
conspicuous and noisy when we enter," she said, adding that their goal is to
eradicate the marijuana.

Regardless of the numbers, Gallegos said the threat of illegal marijuana is
a very real one, citing the abuse of 215 cards.

"They're putting a law that was enacted to alleviate the suffering of ill
people at risk," he said.

BOX:

The 2007 Numbers:

74,119 arrests statewide

16,124 felony

57,995 misdemeanor

971 arrests in Humboldt County

550 felony

421 misdemeanor

The 2006 Numbers:

65,386 arrests statewide

13,548 felony

51,838 misdemeanor

564 arrests in Humboldt County

138 felony

426 misdemeanor

http://www.times-standard.com/ci_10536275?source=rss

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