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163305 tn?1333672171

California Marijuana Decriminalization Drops Youth Crime Rate To Record Low

Between 2010 and 2011, California experienced a drastic 20 percent decrease in juvenile crime--bringing the underage crime rate to the lowest level since the state started keeping records in 1954.

According to a recently released study, much of that improvement can be credited to the decriminalization of marijuana.

The study, entitled "California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low" and released by the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, looked at the number of people under the age of 18 who were arrested in the state over the past eight decades. The research not only found juvenile crime to be at its lowest level ever but, in the wake of then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signing a bill reducing the punishment for possessing a small amount of marijuana from a misdemeanor to simply an infraction, the drop in rates was particularity significant.

In that one-year period, the number of arrests for violent crimes dropped by 16 percent, homicide went down by 26 percent and drug arrests decreased by nearly 50 percent.

The category of drug arrests showed decreases in every type of crime; however, the vast majority of the drop resulted from far fewer arrests for marijuana possession. In 2010, marijuana possession accounted for 64 percent of all drug arrests, and in 2011, that number decreased to only 46 percent.

California's drop in serious youth crime has decreased faster than in the rest of the nation.
41 Responses
163305 tn?1333672171
The study's authors discount a host of explanations as to why juvenile crime has dropped so precipitously (such as changes in the way the statistics are gathered, demographic changes, harsher sentences acting as a deterrent and other cultural factors like family connections). They assert that only two major factors explain the trend: the loosening of marijuana laws and improvements in the economic well-being of California's youth.

AlterNet reports:

    California’s 2010 law did not legalize marijuana, but it officially knocked down "simple" possession of less than one ounce to an infraction from a misdemeanor--and it applies to minors, not just people over 21. Police don’t arrest people for infractions; usually, they ticket them. And infractions are punishable not by jail time, but by fines--a $100 fine in California in the case of less than one ounce of pot.

    "I think it was pretty courageous not to put an age limit on it," said Males, a longtime researcher on juvenile justice and a former sociology professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Arresting and putting low-level juvenile offenders into the criminal-justice system pulls many kids deeper into trouble rather than turning them around, Males said, a conclusion many law-enforcement experts share.

"We haven't seen this low of a number since 1970," Sacramento County Chief Probation Officer Don Meyer told Rosemont Patch. "We now get an average of seven [juveniles] a day, and that's come down from 20 a day."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/california-marijuana-decriminalization-_n_2205997.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular
Avatar universal
Now you know, they are not going to put up with that loss in revenue for very long. At least when it comes to the adults using and they can make boocoo bucks off their offenses. This is going to be interesting to watch. LOL
163305 tn?1333672171
There's also big bucks to be made on legal pot:)
377493 tn?1356505749
What I am getting out of this story is that the drop is due to lack of arrests being made for pot use.  While I am all for decriminilization, I do believe action needs to be taken when it's used underage.  I would not be pro arresting them, but I believe it should be treated much the same way as underage drinking.  Young developing brains should not be using stimulants like that.  

Still, the criminal justice system is not the place for this type of action, and Im glad young people are not winding up with permanent criminal records that could impact the rest of their lives for trying pot.  That makes no sense to me.
Avatar universal
If you decrimlize robbery/burglery then you see a drop in adult crime rate. Any why not make murder legal also? Then the US will have the lowest crime rates in the world.
1747881 tn?1546179478
I understand your point but how can you possibly compare robbery/burglary/murder to simple possession of marijuana, not even close to being in the same category.

If we went back to alcohol prohibition the crime rate would go up by leaps and bounds !!!
Avatar universal
I'm not, I am trying to point out how dumb the story is. Of course if you make something legal then crime rate will drop.
163305 tn?1333672171
I thought of kids being stoned and kick back instead of jacked up and violent, which can happen on alcohol. People often get into fights when they drink too much. They fall asleep if they smoke too much pot.
1747881 tn?1546179478
"Arresting and putting low-level juvenile offenders into the criminal-justice system pulls many kids deeper into trouble rather than turning them around, Males said, a conclusion many law-enforcement experts share"

I thought this was more the point of the article than the actual reduction in the crime rate and if you really want to get in to the economics of the reduction of prosecution of small amounts of MJ, here is a look from WA

Prosecution: The average cost for prosecuting a misdemeanor crime is approximately $983 per case (2009 LGFN prosecutor survey).

Public defender costs: Approximately 93 percent of misdemeanor cases qualify for public defender representation. The range of public defender representation is approximately $935 to $1,473 per case, for an average cost of $1,204 (LGFN 2010 indigent defender data). Jail costs: A person convicted of a misdemeanor would serve their sentence in jail (a local cost). It is not clear what the average sentence for this crime would be. According to the AOC 2009 misdemeanor convictions table the average jail sentence for possession of marijuana of less than 40 grams was 82.7 days, with all but 4.4 days suspended. The daily jail bed rate is $76, according to the LGFN 2009 jail cost survey (weighted by population). The cost of a sentence would be $365 (4.4 days x $76 a day = $334). The combined reduction in costs for each misdemeanor not charged, prosecuted, defended, sentenced, and jail time not served is $2,552
($983 prosecution + $1,204 defense + $334 jail = $2,521).

If all misdemeanor cases in 2010 for possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana had not been tried and sentences not served, the reduction in local government expenditures would be $8,284,006 (3,286 cases x $2,521 per case = $8,284,006).

http://intellectualconversation.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/cost-of-marijuana-arrests-jail-wa-state/
163305 tn?1333672171
Thanks. That makes sense.

Personally I think personal drug use of any drug should be treated as a health issue not a criminal one.
Avatar universal

"Arresting and putting low-level juvenile offenders into the criminal-justice system pulls many kids deeper into trouble rather than turning them around, Males said, a conclusion many law-enforcement experts share"

That is so very true. I really saw that happening in my own youth as well as a HS teacher. Many kids who were not really criminals ended up in the system and became criminal without may other options available to them but the jailhouse schooling.
Adgal-
I would not be pro arresting them, but I believe it should be treated much the same way as underage drinking.  Young developing brains should not be using stimulants like that.  
This is also a very good point. I am not sure what can be done about it.
I read once that being involved in sports has helped decrease teen pregnancy for those who seriously get involved. My guess would be recreational drug use could be minimized with the same sort of commitment to something positive, like sports, the arts, academia or purposeful volunteer work .
377493 tn?1356505749
I absolutely agree that the criminal justice system is not the place for young people experimenting with stimulants.  A criminal record can absolutely destroy their lives and I also fully agree that it can pull them further into a less then desirable life style.  It simply doesn't work.

I always come back to the answer lying in both education, and more opportunities for treatment.  We need to help our young people make better choices.  Educate them on the real dangers of using these types of products - alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, etc.  And start young.  We also need to teach parents how to better handle these issues - so many seem lost on how to work with their children.  And empower parents to have more power to force their child into treatment if necessary.  

OH, I also 100% agree with your statement that this is a health issue, not a legal one.  We have already proven that strict laws doesn't help stop anything - we need another approach.  And I still maintain that jailing a drug user of any age doesn't do a bit of good, and costs a fortune.  It's just not the answer in my opinion.
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