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Change to pot laws could be cash cow for D.C. with fines instead of jail
“If you have 6,000 arrests and the rate stays the same, you are talking about $600,000,” Mr. Zukerberg said.
Law enforcement agencies across the country have estimated decriminalization reforms could save officers thousands of hours of work. But the financial benefits reaped from the actual civil fines have been mixed.
The Providence Journal reported in August that after Rhode Island instituted decriminalization reforms, the number of tickets written for pot possession in the first four months were enough to shock a local judge. From April through July, police had issued 851 tickets for marijuana possession and levied more than $110,000 in fines.
“To see this many cases, I am surprised,” Traffic Tribunal Chief Magistrate William R. Guglietta told The Journal.
Meanwhile, a Chicago alderman’s estimate that the city could collect $7 million a year in marijuana possession fines doesn’t seem to be living up to the hype. A January report by the Chicago newspaper the RedEye states that only 380 citations were written from August through December 2012 — netting the city just $98,000 in fines in its first five months.
There isn’t much available research on the effects decriminalization has had on states that recently adopted such reforms, said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. But citing research out of Australia, he said, “There is definitely some evidence that decriminalization could create a net-widening effect.”
Noting the District’s strong reputation for ticketing, Mr. Piper said there is still room to question how the policy would work in practice.
“There is definitely some concern but we still think it is a step in the right direction,” he said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Andrea Noble is a crime and public safety reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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