With the New Jersey senate race bringing about increased dialogue about the ongoing drug war, the FBI released a report detailing its arrest statistics from the last year. Among the report’s findings is the fact that in 2012, more people were arrested for marijuana-related crimes than violent crimes in the United States. In fact, a new drug charge-related arrest takes place about once per minute in the U.S. for people allegedly using, cultivating, or selling marijuana.
It is easy to find stories of men and women who have a drug charge ruin their lives. For one man in New Jersey, this story will, at least for now, include a second chance. He was charged with possessing less than 50 grams of marijuana in late August, and it was his first offense. As a 22-year-old man, he faced what could have been a lifetime of explaining one drug-relate mistake. Now, it seems, he will have an opportunity to clear his record.
For many people in New Jersey, a drug charge can be a stepping stone to a life of crime, as the prison cycle makes it difficult for individuals to get jobs and make contributions to society after going through the system. Things may be changing, though, as state drug crimes are treated differently in the age of enlightened criminal justice reform. About a decade ago, the state put forward a revolutionary drug court designed to rehabilitate and treat offenders rather than punish them harshly. It has made strides, giving those offenders a chance to overcome mistakes, and the program is now being expanded.
Newark mayor Cory Booker is currently suggesting changes to federal law on a host of issues. He’s championing reforms that many criminal defense types have requested for years, asking for drug offender treatment programs and changes to minimum sentencing requirements. Booker’s running for a Senate seat out of New Jersey, and he’s using his platform to advocate for those charged with federal felonies and similar drug offenses.