Jacob Sullum at the libertarian site reason.com has some new record-breaking statistics:
According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report (PDF) released yesterday, 2.3 million Americans were behind bars in 2007, 1.5 percent more than in 2006 and a new record. The number includes about 780,000 people in local jails, 1.4 million in state prisons, and 200,000 in federal prison. Roughly one in five state prisoners and more than half of federal prisoners were serving time for drug offenses. Assuming the percentage of drug offenders in jails is similar to the percentage in state prisons, the total is more than half a million. "That is ten times the total in 1980," notes the Drug Policy Alliance, "and more than all of western Europe (with a much larger population) incarcerates for all offenses."The continuation of this decades old practice of incarcerating non-violent adults for doing nothing more than deciding for themselves what they're going to put into their own bodies has got to stop. Now of course I've never expected George W. Bush to pursue a rational drug policy (the DEA raids on medical cannabis dispensaries out here in California over the last several years are a testament to that fact) but there is some hope that his successor will propose a more progressive agenda:
President-elect Obama - fulfilling multiple campaign promises to more deeply involve the public in setting priorities for his administration - opened up his Change.Gov website to questions from citizens, and asked the people to then rate the questions up or down.I've seen multiple videos of Obama at campaign events saying that he does indeed want to change these draconian policies, at least as they relate to medical cannabis and it's current prohibition; we'll have to wait and see if he sticks to his guns on this or buckles under to the pressure of the Republicans and drug war zealots.
The first round of questions closed at midnight last night, and it should come as no surprise that many of the top questions involve issues that millions of Americans care deeply about but for which commercial media coverage doesn't do justice in reporting or prioritizing.
"Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?"
A total of 2,521 7,947 participants recommended that question to only 102 634 that thought it inappropriate (the latter figure is particularly revealing, demonstrating that the "conventional wisdom" that drug policy reform is too controversial to touch is simply not reflected in public opinion, certainly not among Obama's base supporters).