The head of one jail in New Hampshire said on Monday that his experience in the prison system had made him sure that it was time to legalize marijuana.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill earlier this year to decriminalize small amounts of weed, but Cheshire County Department of Corrections Superintendent Richard Van Winkler told Vermont Public Radio that the law did not go far enough.
“If we decriminalize we allow the illegal drug enterprise to flourish. That money goes to bad guys, that money funds terrorism,” he explained. “If we legalize, control, regulate, tax in the same way that we do for alcohol, we put the illegal drug dealer out of business.”
The 20-year veteran of law enforcement pointed out that it costs about $32,000 to keep each non-violent drug offender incarcerated every year.
“The fact is policies like mandatory minimum sentencing, drug war issues have meant that the United States has had to build over 900 jail beds every two weeks for the last 20 years, this while violent crime in our country is at a 30 year low,” he said.
Van Winkler observed that both Washington and Colorado had legalized marijuana and “guess what? The sky is not falling.”
“You did not see an increased police presence, there was not rioting in the streets,” he said of a recent visit to Colorado. “The legislature is excited in Colorado about looking forward to the revenue that inevitably they’re going to receive from this policy. Constituents should be happy that we’re not going to be incarcerating people there in Colorado that don’t need to be.”
“Jails should serve one primary purpose, and that is public safety. If an individual is not a threat to public safety, then they should not be incarcerated in jail.”
Listen to the audio below from Vermont Public Radio, recorded on Nov. 11, 2013.
[Photo: 'Young man in jail' [Shutterstock]]