Fiscal Sanity in the Criminal Justice System

Jim Kenny, one of the two Democrats running to be the Snohomish County Prosecutor, has endorsed I-1068 to make marijuana legal in Washington. In his press release, he touches on the key reason why our budget-conscious politicians should be joining him:

There are also many cost savings which can be realized if the voters pass I-1068, especially at the cash-strapped county level of government. Kenny points to the 16,000 marijuana criminal cases per year that would be removed from our state and local court systems, saving tens of millions of dollars in police, prosecutorial, and judicial resources. “I can point to two medical marijuana cases in the last year on which the Snohomish County Prosecutor spent valuable taxpayer resources, neither of which led to conviction. If juries are throwing out cases like that, clearly we need to move on.”

“We are looking at a crisis in public safety with declining revenue for local government. I think it’s time to prioritize and really focus our criminal justice resources on violent criminals,” said Kenny. “Given the state of our economy and the projected financial situation facing government at every level, we need to get down to the fundamentals and prioritize.”

There was a time when politicians (let alone prosecutors) didn’t dare talk about reducing law enforcement budgets or cutting back on waging the drug war. But two things have changed since then – a bad economy forcing even police budgets to be slashed, and a growing awareness that marijuana prohibition causes far more crime in our communities than would occur if we treated it the same as alcohol. Being smarter about how we reduce crime in our neighborhoods – rather than doing things that appear tough – is one of the most effective ways that we can introduce more fiscal sanity to our bloated budgets.


  1. 1

    Zotz spews:

    Focus on more important things…

    Curious: What happened to Citizen’s for More Important Things?

    I know it’s a diffferent subject, but someone should steal the name as a slogan if it’s available. With a couple of even recent examples for context, it really is the message argument that will sway the undecideds on this issue.

  2. 2

    rhp6033 spews:

    Not that I don’t agree with the prosecutor’s point, but I’m wondering if some other prosecutors/police, especially those in some small jurisdictions adjacent to major highways, see marijuana prosecutions as a revenue source?

    There have been a number of examples, especially in the South, were Reagan-era forefeiture laws have made it profitable for small police departments to stop, search upon some pretext, then charge the driver and seize the vehicle (and any cash in his possession) under the forefeiture laws. If pot wasn’t found, sometimes it had a mysterious habit of “appearing” within the vehicle upon a search.

    Also, many a prosecutors & sheriffs have based their careers upon scaring parents about the evils of drugs in the schools, and conducting high-profile arrests of marijuana users/dealers shortly before each election day.

    Of course, then there are the occassionaly (hopefully rare) case of cops on the take, who make a nice living by “taxing” approved dealers and keeping the rest of the competition under arrest or chased out of town.

    Those are the people with a lot at stake in this fight, and you have to expect that they will fight back hard against any attempts to legalize pot.

  3. 5

    Broadway Joe spews:

    Most everyone is cool with sin taxes. And legalizing, regulating and taxing the sale of marijuana is fine with me. Is it a magic bullet? No, but it would most certainly help.

    Hey I-Burn, how’s Vegas treating you?

  4. 6

    rhp6033 spews:

    The History Channel’s recent series on the history of America (I forget it’s exact name) blamed the end of Prohibition entirely upon the need for the federal government to collect liquor taxes.

    I think that’s pretty simplistic, but it’s certainly yet one more reason to get there.

    But the recent initiative to open up alchohol sales to private stores might work against the initiative. I don’t have a problem with legalizing pot and selling it through the state liquor stores. But I see Costco’s attempt to allow it to sell alchohol as a short slide down a slippery slope to selling pot through every convenience store and gas station, which I would oppose.

  5. 7


    One way this could play out is to see both I-1100 and I-1068 pass and the state repurpose the liquor stores.

    As long as the state is capable of enforcing the age limits, though (which they’ve proven they can with beer sales), I have no concerns about pot being sold in any of the same establishments.

  6. 9

    I-Burn spews:


    Joe, it’s just now starting to heat up, if you can believe it. Supposed to top a hundred next week, but up until now it has really been pretty pleasant. I was actually back in Everett over the weekend and pretty much froze my ass off… So it was nice to get back here, all things considered.

    Otherwise, you know Vegas – another shooting, another cop in trouble… Same ole same ole…