The Argument Against
Though it may initially seem that there are savings to be had from legalizing marijuana, only about 4.2 percent of the New Jersey budget is spent on the $197 million to cover the law enforcement officers and costs associated with court and corrections, according to reports from 2010 from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Those who are against marijuana legalization point out that the costs associated with legalization have the potential to be far greater than those associated with management of current laws. These include healthcare costs, law enforcement and judicial costs related to illegal production or distribution of the drug, and costs related to law enforcement around driving under the influence and use of the drug by minors, and the incalculable costs of lost productivity for those who struggle with addiction
Michael Richards is Newton’s Chief of Police. He believes that costs would rise for his department because use of the drug would increase.
Says Richards: “There’s a chance that, if it were legalized it wouldn’t reduce our drug enforcement efforts, it would increase the amount of work we have with drug enforcement efforts because more people would be more likely to expand their drug use.”
Francis Koch, a prosecutor in Sussex County, expressed similar sentiments. Says Koch: “It’s not like we are focusing any specific amount of work towards marijuana and that’s going to be freed up. That’s not what happens. We’re not going to have a 20 percent increase in manpower to focus on all other crimes. I don’t think the monetary impact is going to be a panacea of money that people think it’s going to be. The societal cost, just like with alcohol, has grave expenses that the taxes can’t cover.”
Because current marijuana law enforcement comes out of other law enforcement efforts (e.g., traffic law enforcement and making arrests for other criminal behaviors), it is unlikely that police departments or court systems would find great relief through legalization of marijuana. Many point to the problems faced by law enforcement in Colorado: Increased rates of drugged driving, issues with marijuana use in the workplace, and an increasingly “stoned community” are causes for concern.