A prison official from New Hampshire says that based on his experience working in the state correctional system, the time has finally come to get serious about legalizing marijuana.
Even though Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin’s signature on the law books earlier this year was integral in the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana across the state, Cheshire County Department of Corrections Superintendent Richard Van Winkler said in a recent interview on Vermont Public Radio that he doesn’t feel a simple decriminalization effort is going to solve the problem.
“If we decriminalize we allow the illegal drug enterprise to flourish. That money goes to bad guys, that money funds terrorism. If we legalize, control, regulate, tax in the same way that we do for alcohol, we put the illegal drug dealer out of business,” said Van Winkler, a spokesperson for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Van Winkler is adamant that his advocacy for policy reform does not mean that he is a full-blooded marijuana supporter. Yet, the 20-year law enforcement veteran feels strongly that current policies are costing entirely too much money -- nearly $32,000 to lock up every non-violent drug offender for a year -- and simply not serving the greater good.
“The fact is policies like mandatory minimum sentencing and drug war issues have meant that the United States has had to build more than 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.
After witnessing the reaction to legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington, Van Winkler says he was not surprised to see that the states did not combust in a virtual Thunderdome, and that people should embrace the leaf because it is no risk to public safety.
“The sky is not falling, you did not see an increased police presence, there was not rioting in the streets. 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,” said Van Winkler.
We could not agree more.