The war on drugs has been a large target for Democratic presidential candidates who use large persuading statements to say that drug laws, mostly those pertaining to marijuana, arrears the reason that the United States has so many prisoners that do not even deserve to be behind bars.
Front-runner Hillary Clinton said “low-level offenses that are primarily due to marijuana” was the issue, while Senator Bernard Sanders stated that states should consider legalizing cannabis out of “fairness.” Wall Street CEOs are not being put in jail, “and yet we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana,” Sanders stated.
The only problem with this statement is that it is not true.
“The statement that the prison population is mostly low-level marijuana offenders is utterly totally bogus; there is not a shred of validity in it,” Jonathan Caulkins, a public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said.
Mr. Caulkins stated that although 20% of the United States prison population is filled with drug offenders, less than 10% of those offenders are in for marijuana. The other 90% are convicted with cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin violations.
“And of the marijuana violators, the people in prison for that reason in particular, they basically are never there for simple possession,” Caulkins added. “You can go to prison if you possess 5 tons of marijuana, but that’s not personal possession. Most of these offenders are there because they broke parole or were also charged with drug trafficking and production.”
It is true that only 3.6% of states inmates in 2014 were in jail for drug possession, but according to data from the Justice Department, and only about 3/10 of 1% of state prison inmates were there solely because of marijuana possession, the federal agency’s most recent data reports.