The just-released U.S. Justice Department figures on numbers of prison and jail inmates are a reminder of how California has benefited from its sane and sensible marijuana laws.
After years of rising prison populations in California and nationwide, the state has now reversed the trend, showing a 0.3 percent decline in the state's prison population between June 2000 and June 2001. Surely much of the credit for this goes to the combined effects of Prop. 36, which substituted treatment for imprisonment for many nonviolent drug offenders, and California's long-standing decisions to decriminalize marijuana possession and legalize medical use of marijuana.
Nationwide, incarceration rates for the same period rose 1.1 percent — with the inevitable increased expenses involved in running prisons and parole systems clogged with nonviolent individuals.
Prisons should be for people who are violent and dangerous. California has begun to recognize this, and its citizens have benefited.