According to a report from Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, the personal use and possession of drugs should be decriminalized. Each year, 1.25 million people are taken into custody by police for drug possession in the United States, which equates to one person being taken into custody every 25 seconds. In 2015, more people were booked marijuana-related charges than for rape, robbery and murder combined.
However, enforcement has not lead to a meaningful decrease in drug use. It has been suggested that authorities focus on education and prevention in an effort to get people to stop using drugs. For some, being put in jail for a minor drug offense can be deadly. One man who was taken into custody for smoking marijuana in his home died after spending a month in jail as he could not come up with $100 for a bail bond.
One jail in Norfolk, Virginia, was holding 85 people on marijuana charges as of September 2016. The cost to house those individuals was $1.84 million per year. Low level drug offenders may be targeted by police who are given quotas or other incentives to take as many people into custody as possible. This is because they may be easier to take into custody compared to other offenders.
Those who are charged with a drug crime may wish to meet with a criminal defense attorney. Legal counsel may be able to help a client obtain a plea agreement, which could reduce charges and allow the client to avoid serious penalties. It may also be possible to create a defense that casts doubt on witness testimony or results in evidence being excluded.