The Palm Beach Post has reported that US Representatives Barney Frank and Ron Paul have introduced a bill that would end some Federal penalties for marijuana. Although many on the left will praise the Representatives for introducing the bill, any party (no pun intended) will likely be short lived. While a recent report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy indicates that there may be growing support for a bill like that introduced by Representatives Frank and Paul, the likelihood of the bill passing seems to be very low. Not only is the House controlled by Republicans, but the Democrats lack a majority in the Senate. It seems pretty unlikely that enough Republican Senators would cross the aisle and vote in favor of such a bill.
Instead of focusing their efforts on decriminalization, perhaps Federal legislators should consider providing increased funding for State drug court programs. In 2006, the Department of Justice issued a report wherein the Department discussed the feasibility of a Federal drug court program. In the last footnote on the last page of the Report, the Department noted that 72% of State courts reported that a lack of funding was their major obstacle. Increasing funding to State drug court programs would provide both social and economic returns to both Federal and State governments. With their focus on rehabilitation instead of incarceration, drug courts have helped to reduce the caseloads in other criminal divisions, have helped to reduce the prison population, and have helped to address the problems of repeat offenders. Drug courts may also help save money down the road. If drug court participants get the treatment they need in drug court, they may be less likely to commit more drug related offenses in the future. And if those same drug court participants commit fewer drug related offenses, fewer arrests and prosecutions will be needed, thereby saving many State and Federal agencies time and money.
Everyone knows the economy is suffering now, and has been for quite some time. What many people, other than attorneys, may not know is that the Courts are facing similar economic issues. The State of Florida has reduced court funding to dangerous levels. Even though the US Congress faces numerous budgetary issues, it may be smart to revisit the issue of drug court funding.
To learn more about Florida’s drug courts, go here.