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Criminalizing drugs is ineffective

Many Californians are arrested for low-level drug crimes. Despite evidence that the criminalization of drug use doesn't work, law enforcement agencies across the nation continue to enforce drug laws to the detriment of the defendants, their families and the community at large.

According to the Uniform Crime Report from the FBI, more than 1.57 million drug-related arrests were made by U.S. law enforcement agencies in 2016, which was an increase of 5.63 percent over the number of arrests in 2015. Of those arrests, 84.6 percent were for simple drug possession, and 41 percent of all of the drug arrests were for marijuana.

The Drug Policy Alliance reports that there is a growing acknowledgment that people who use or possess drugs should not be imprisoned but should instead receive treatment. Another problem is that drug possession laws are enforced in a discriminatory manner. For instance, while black people make up just 13 percent of the population, they make up 29 percent of those who are arrested for drug offenses despite data showing that they use drugs at the same rates as other races.

Drug possession charges may bring harsh consequences if people are convicted. People may face incarceration, high court costs, and heavy fines. When people are incarcerated for possessing drugs, their families may also be left without a means of support. When they are released, they may subsequently have trouble finding jobs and housing, and they may also be prevented from securing educational loans. Experienced criminal defense lawyers may help their clients to fight against the allegations against them. In some cases, law enforcement officers commit constitutional violations in the manners in which they conduct the searches and seizures. When that happens, defense lawyers may argue for the evidence to be suppressed, which might result in the charges being dismissed.

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