Marijuana Less Harmful To Health Than Alcohol Or Tobacco, British Think Tank Reports
Oxford, United Kingdom: The potential health risks associated with cannabis are less than those associated with alcohol and do not justify the continued criminalization of the plant or its users, according to a report published last week by The Beckley Foundation - an independent British think-tank that analyzes drug use and drug policy.
"There is no justification for incarcerating an individual for a cannabis possession or use offense, nor for creating a criminal conviction," concludes the report, entitled "Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate."
Authors of the report recommend that governments consider enacting legislation to tax and regulate the sale of cannabis.
"The rationale for severe penalties for possession offenses is weak on both normative and practical grounds," authors state. "In many developed countries a majority of adults born in the past half-century have used cannabis. Control regimes that criminalize users are intrusive on privacy, socially divisive and expensive. … They clearly do harm to the many individuals who are arrested, they abridge individual autonomy and they are often applied unjustly.
"In an alternative system of regulated availability, market controls such as taxation, minimum age requirements, labeling and potency limits are available to minimize the harms associated with cannabis use."
The Beckley Foundation report will be submitted to the United Nations, which will conduct a strategic review of global drug policies next year.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.
The United States Imprisons More People Than Any Other Country
Published: February 28, 2008
For the first time in the nation's history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report.
The report said the United States is the world's incarceration leader, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which make up the rest of the Top 10.
Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.
Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in 9 black men between the ages of 20 and 34.
The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 are behind bars but that one in 100 black women are.
The report's methodology differed from that used by the Justice Department, which calculates the incarceration rate by using the total population rather than the adult population as the denominator. Using the department's methodology, about one in 130 Americans is behind bars.
Either way, said Susan Urahn, the center's managing director, "we aren't really getting the return in public safety from this level of incarceration."
Now, with fewer resources available, the report said, "prison costs are blowing a hole in state budgets." On average, states spend almost 7 percent on their budgets on corrections, trailing only healthcare, education and transportation.
In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 increase once adjusted for inflation. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.
It cost an average of $23,876 dollars to imprison someone in 2005, the most recent year for which data were available. But state spending varies widely, from $45,000 a year in Rhode Island to $13,000 in Louisiana.
The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, and will accelerate as the prison population ages.
Shortfall in California’s Budget Swells to