How much has the mass incarceration trend affected Iowa? More than you might think.
Even though more and more states have legalized marijuana, the overall number of arrests for marijuana offenses continued to rise in 2018, according to new data from the FBI. There were 663,367 marijuana arrests nationwide last year, up from 659,700 in 2017. That itself was a jump from 2016's total of 653,249. Before that, marijuana arrests had been dropping steadily for more than a decade.
A recent study released by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leading public interest law firm, calls into question a number of justifications for civil asset forfeiture. Contrary to claims by law enforcement, seizing property from criminal suspects does not appear to meaningfully reduce crime rates or lessen drug use. Far from being used to fight major drug traffickers, civil asset forfeiture is usually deployed against the poor and people of color.
With so many states legalizing marijuana, you might think that the urgency to enforce marijuana laws is waning. After all, states wouldn't be legalizing if they were still convinced that marijuana's effects were as dangerous as those of other drugs.
New data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the federal government has been prosecuting fewer white-collar crimes under this administration than it had done previously. Researchers from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse found a 35.7-percent dip in the number of cases filed in January over the same period five years ago.
"Driving while black" isn't a real crime, but it might as well be. African-Americans and people of color persistently report being stopped, searched, cited and even arrested for traffic offenses in situations where white people probably wouldn't be. Yet people of color don't break the law at a higher rate than whites. If anything, a recent study found, whites are more likely to do so.
These days, a lot of people are on the keto diet, a low-carb diet advertised to encourage weight loss. The diet puts your body into a state called "ketosis," where the liver begins to break down fat to fuel the body. Acetone, a byproduct of ketosis, is released through the breath in the form of isopropyl alcohol. This is different from ethanol, which is the type of alcohol people drink. The question is, can breathalyzers tell the difference?
If a drug field test comes back positive, that is generally considered enough to justify an arrest. Field tests are inadmissible in most courts, so further testing must be performed by a lab. Unfortunately, lab results can take months to come back. If a field test is inaccurate, an innocent person could be stuck in jail for a long time before the inaccuracy is discovered.
The question of how much discretion federal judges should have when sentencing criminal defendants is an important one, and opinions have changed over time. In the 1980s and 1990s, Congress passed a large number of strict, mandatory minimum sentencing requirements.
Marijuana arrests make up over half of all drug arrests in the U.S., and approximately 88 percent of marijuana arrests are for possession. Enforcing our state and federal marijuana laws costs the U.S. about $3.6 billion every year, yet doing so has had virtually no measurable impact on the availability of marijuana. It also ensnares hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system.