As the United States grapples with how to best address juvenile and youthful offenders, criminal justice reform is focusing on the best avenues for dealing with low-level drug possession offenses. Organizations that research best practices with youthful offenders, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, suggest that the most effective approach is to reduce incarceration in favor of family- and community-based interventions.
A report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) earlier this week found that in 2010, African-Americans were approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession — this, despite that fact that national data indicates the two populations use marijuana at nearly the same rates. Furthermore, in several states, including Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, the ACLU said African-Americans were busted for pot at rates from 7.5 to 8 times higher than whites. Regardless of region, the ACLU reports that these discrepancies in arrest rate by race remain consistent. “In over 96 percent of counties with more than 30,000 people in which at least 2 percent of the residents are black,” the report reads, “blacks are arrested at higher rates than whites for marijuana possession.”
Overall, New York, Texas, California, Florida and Illinois were found to have the highest rates of marijuana possession arrests. In almost half of all states, the ACLU found that possession offenses accounted for more than 90 percent of marijuana arrests.
Marijuana possession arrests in California plummeted by 86 percent following the passage of a law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug, according to recently-released data from the Criminal Justice Statistics Center. Arrests fell from 54,900 in 2010 to just 7,800 in 2011. Mike Males, of the Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice, said the law may “prove much more effective in reducing simple marijuana arrests than Proposition 19, or Washington’s and Oregon’s marijuana legalization initiatives passed this year.” Nationwide, he said, the current trend toward legalization might cut total marijuana arrests by half. In California, felony arrests for marijuana sales and manufacturing dropped from 16,600 in 2010 to 14,100 in 2011, a decrease of 17 percent for adults and 10 percent for young people. Additionally, from 2010 to 2011, the total number of marijuana arrests in the state plummeted by 70 percent.
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his support of a change to state law that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. Gov. Cuomo made his announcement at a news conference last week at the state capitol in Albany . Also supporting the legislative change was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who said she has plans to pass a resolution denouncing “unlawful” marijuana arrests. Currently, the state’s legislative session is scheduled to conclude on June 21. Last year, New York City police made more than 50,000 arrests for low-level marijuana possession, ultimately accounting for one out of every seven arrests in the nation’s largest city in 2011.
According to a recent National Institutes of Health-funded study, mothers using marijuana during their teen years may have a greater likelihood of giving birth to children who will eventually abuse drugs than mothers who do not use marijuana as teenagers.
Packages of synthetic marijuana are once again available for sale legally, despite a law passed in March banning the drug, because manufacturers found a way around the ban, WSAV-TV in Savannah reports. As The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange reported last spring, synthetic marijuana, often known by the brand names K-2 or Spice, is created by spraying dried plant matter with a synthetic cannabanoid, a chemical that mimics the effects of THC, the psychoactive chemical that gives marijuana users their high. Lawmakers believed the legislation banning the drug—which made illegal the base chemical formula and any alterations of that formula—would close a loophole manufacturers of fake pot had used to skirt previous bans. “We identified the base formula,” state Senator Buddy Carter told WSAV-TV. “We said any deviation, any alteration of the base formula, would be illegal.
Heavy marijuana use among teens has increased drastically in recent years, with nearly one in 10 sparking up 20 times or more each month, according to a new survey of young Americans released this morning. The findings represent nearly an 80 percent increase in past-month heavy marijuana use among high school aged youth since 2008. Overall, the rate of marijuana use among teens has increased. Past month marijuana users, or teens that have used marijuana in the month prior to the survey, increased 42 percent, to 27 percent of teens, compared to 2008 findings. Past-year and lifetime use also increased, but not as drastically, at 26 percent and 21 percent respectively.
It’s easy to make New Year’s resolutions. Keeping them, though, takes a resolution that many, well-intended people simply don’t have. For those whose plans are to lose a stubborn 10 pounds or run a first-ever marathon, the consequences of failure are minimal. For teenagers who have spent at least some of 2011 stoned, drunk and in front of a judge, failing to honor their resolutions can have lifelong results. In Marietta, Ga., five high school students who are participants in the Cobb County Juvenile Drug Court talked about 2011 and looked ahead to 2012.
“I was clean for nine months until this month, when I slipped up and drank some whiskey. I’ve been to jail four times. My drug of choice, it’s embarrassing to say, was cocaine. Finally, it hit me that if I could go without it in jail, I could go without it at home. “My resolution is not to go backwards at all next year.
I got caught using marijuana three years ago and have now been clean for seven months. For my New Year’s resolution, I want to lose 10 pounds, and stay sober, of course. To do that, I’m going to have to stay busy. I’m going to spend time practicing my cello, and keeping my grades up and spend time with my boyfriend, who is very supportive and a good influence. “Plus, my mom and I have a lot of fun together.