Current Events

Daily Iowan: “Expensive efforts to seize drugs on I-80 harm Iowa City”

From The Daily Iowan:

Expensive efforts to seize drugs on I-80 harm Iowa City

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 15, 2011 7:20 AM

Through December, the Iowa City police are projected to spend nearly $4,500 per every pound of marijuana seized on Interstate 80. This figure does not account for detainment costs or opportunity costs, nor does it account for the far-reaching detriment to society that is commonly caused by such prohibitionary acts.

If the federal grant necessary to continue these acts is renewed again for 2012, the damaging effects on the Iowa City community will outweigh any benefits, which are ambiguous at best.

The Iowa City police are going to spend $104,984 in federal grant money — in other words, U.S. taxpayer money — to crack down on drugs along I-80 by the end of 2011. Since June 2010, these searches have yielded seizures of 20.97 pounds of marijuana, six doses of LSD, and two grams of synthetic marijuana.

None of these substances are inherently dangerous. If one person ingested all of the above as fast as humanly possible, there is exactly a 0 percent chance of death due to overdose.

But individual health effects weren’t the reason given by Iowa City police Lt. Doug Hart, who is the administrator of the so-called “drug interdiction” grant.

“The drugs have had a significant impact on the quality of life in our community, including burglary, robbery, and theft,” he said. “I have spoken with numerous individuals severely affected by drug use, including marijuana.”

“That cop didn’t lie to you,” said Carl Olsen, a creator of IowaMedicalMarijuana.Org. “If you become a criminal because of the fact that you use marijuana, your whole life is destroyed in every way. You have to keep secrets from people. You can’t be honest and get a job. You’re completely hosed, and that just tears families apart.”

In fact, studies have shown that it is more likely that drug-related violent crime is more likely caused by drug enforcement than drug availability. A study conducted by Andrew Resignato of Florida State University found that, in the three areas with a higher allocation of drug-crime prevention resources relative to other crime-prevention resources, there were higher violent-crime rates by statistically significant measures. The study, titled “Violent crime: a function of drug use or drug enforcement?,” concluded, “U.S. drug policies may have more costly negative externalities than benefits” and that violent crime may only be one of many negative consequences of such policies.

For individuals in Iowa, the negative consequences of a marijuana conviction include immediate arrest, fines, license suspension, and most importantly, loss of job prospects.

Read the whole article here.

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