WWL>Topics>>4-17-14 1:10pm Angela: on marijuana penalties

4-17-14 1:10pm Angela: on marijuana penalties

Apr 17, 2014|

Angela talks with Kevin Kane of the Pelican Institute, Gregory Thompson of Thompson Law Group, and Vikrant Reddy of the Texas Public Policy Foundation about the penalties for marijuana possession.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Well disguised may be great but it's still going to be a glorious weekend so we'll just get through this day a little bit of rain. And in the sun will be back and we should have a beautiful Easter time. Hopefully he'll stay with this for all three hours it's going to be sort of not a funny mix we're gonna start serious for the first hour on a subject that is of great importance. And one that sort of an ongoing thread that we had on the show. Looking at. Where are criminal justice system is going and what we need to do. Then you're gonna have fun for the next two hours we're going to be talking to two phenomenal guys who are experts. In desserts. It doesn't get better so all of you have given up sugar for -- in your clawing your way till Sunday. You definitely don't want to miss these two guys and then the third hour. We're going to be talking to two wonderful -- who are gonna talk at all about. If he's given up on mate let's talk mate. Or if you're just gonna have one of those great crawfish balls we're gonna talk about how to do best so stay with us for the whole three hours. We've talked a lot on this program about the need to look at what many consider the outrageous incarceration rate in the state Louisiana. Higher per capita than any place in the world. We can't afford it -- taxpayers. And we need to better understand the cost in human potential for those sent to jail for nonviolent offenses. It's not just an ongoing conversation. A variety of organizations has joined hands to make changes. Calling itself Smart on crime Louisiana. It's proposing several changes in the law and one comes up this Tuesday senate bill 323. Aims to change the law on marijuana possession. -- joining us to talk about this is Kevin Kane who is head of the pelican institute. And Greg Thompson attorney at law and also with Louisiana for responsible reform. And also former prosecutor. I think both of you for joining us. Let me just right off the -- I ask is this a decriminalization. -- -- -- No -- did it definitely is not I think sometimes people. You know people tend to lump things together. Practically this year you know there are a number of pieces of legislation. That have been filed that address marijuana laws in one way or another in a medical marijuana. And several other bills up there. And and -- people tend to sort of broadly. Paint these as decriminalization efforts on senate bill 323 which which -- campaign Smart on crime. Is supporting. What does not do that all it does. Is it takes column simple possession of marijuana. Currently in Louisiana. On on your first offense it's a misdemeanor but on such a subsequent offenses elevated to a felony. -- in erupted there is when I read the information. I was startled at that. The first offense shouldn't be there yet it it it was how did we get to that place second time just for possession and on out there selling it and making big box. You're using that second time felony up to five years corrects. Correct and so what were you know what we're saying is you know this is again we're not arguing. Here for legalization. Simply saying -- and you know. Marijuana the simple possession should be against the law but it should be a misdemeanor I mean it's it's it's I think most people would agree. You know you look at sort of the broad spectrum of crimes that are out there from the most violent. From the worst of the worst of the most trivial. I think most people would have their feelings about marijuana. Maybe would tend to see that as you know more on the side of the trivial. Again whatever you may think about. -- use of marijuana and how how how you know. How how big mistake it might be for someone to use it I just don't think most people would really consider simple possession of marijuana to ever -- -- felony. You know it's interesting you say that I received via an email from a woman. Because of show Garland had done it very outraged. That it he was doing stories like this but not necessarily for the legalization just as the discussion. And she was saying this is killing our kids and I think you can debate that all day does marijuana -- other things that isn't what the issue list. The issue -- if somebody's on marijuana than they need help. But they don't need five years and not an angle. Correct -- again and I'm sure you know Greg through his experience can speak to a lot of this but -- you know generally one of the problems with our system here in Louisiana. Is that now are some of tactically on drugs. Are so rigid that we don't have the flexibility. To apply sentences that really addressed the the problem and we kind of you know we -- with a very broad brush but I know. Greg has dealt with that firsthand. And just it's our men com -- talk -- the five years for the second pants now owns a third offense is up twenty years. Which is more than you can get for breaking into somebody's house when there and that's CNET news here that's 12 trial. Cell invasion. Well burglar an average well there's a separate statute from invasion. But. Just from breaking somebody's house you couldn't you know get a maximum of twelve years -- your marijuana. Third offense that's -- -- one so. That indicates that maybe were a little bit out of balance when it comes to how we sent -- these offenses and if you throw. To use of the habitual offender statute on top of that you know if you have prior drug felonies. He could be facing up -- twenty. For -- there. If you had a combination of Q prior. Possession of -- a singer heroin addict. And then you get caught in over the marijuana third that's an automatic life sentence judge can't do anything about that even if the judge wants to. So you know we're dealing with some. Very very. Harsh consequences for our. Relatively minor offenses and I agree with Kevin this is not about legalization. Because even as a misdemeanor a judge currently has a whole arsenal at his disposal of the judge wants to make. Probationary period active they can do that they can order drug counseling and drug treatment if the judge. Feels that individual has a drug problem says there are provisions there even as a misdemeanor offense that can be used to get that person help if they needed. On -- you know to adequately penalizing as the judge sees fit however we're talking about 520. Years. It's a bit much and. I think we need to go back to be regional. Thought process of -- Smart on crime which is we are all recognizing. Locally and nationally that this is costing a fortune. And we're not talking about rapists murderers horrible people we are talking about. Nonviolent crimes and we need to address do we wanna continue to foot this bill. That's rise and one of the sort of impetus. Behind this at this. This coalition was that we're seeing now in other states. The they have taken a look at these issues particularly in Texas was sort of the leader on this front and I know we'll have someone joining us later on from Texas. But you know they took a look at what they were gonna have to spend. To incarcerate you continually building new prisons and incarcerating. More people they realized. He would actually save money. Two a look at the nonviolent offenders who don't pose a threat to society. And if people need treatment you give them treatment. And in looking at alternatives like education and job training in and you're doing things. Double in the long term reduce recidivism rates. And that brings down the crime rate and it saves money in the long term so that's that's one of the things that sort of I think it's spurred people action here in Louisiana because we're really behind the term. Well we're gonna take a break but when we come back we're gonna have -- give this a real financial breakdown. Of what this cost stay with -- I'm Angela on WW well. Well we are back talking about -- on a bill a senate bill that will go before the a legislative committee. On Tuesday senate bill 323. Which is looking at changing the law on marijuana possession and we've been talking with Kevin -- With pelican institute and Greg Thompson an attorney also with Louisiana forum -- responsible reform. And and really what they're saying is. Our our laws are outdated and out of whack. For a second offense for just for simple possession you could it's a felony could spend five years in prison. A third offense. Simple possession could be up to twenty years. Lot of people called that outrageous and done perhaps needs to be changed Greg -- did a wonderful breakdown on what this cost. And just financially. That's correct back last fall I was tapped by a member of the sentencing commission. To basically look at our current marijuana laws in. And and make recommendations based on the research that our team did. And now one of the things I noted was the DOC costs and so we currently have. 1000. 367. Folks incarcerated. And jails. For just marijuana seconds and there. Com and so what I did is. It's at the numbers. So an annual arm expenditure for one. Inmates and DOC custody. Was 191531. Dollars now sometimes DOC. -- save money. Allows some of their enemies Cuba during DOC time to serve their time and local facilities. And so high cost the state to idiocy 8902. Dollars per offender per year. To houses folks in the local facilities so and we can only house. Like 300 in ninety folks in state facilities. And then 977. Of that thirteen 67 and local facilities. I saw multiplied that 191530. One dollar per year figure. Times at 309 which were the folks that are in DC facilities. And then 8900. And -- figure. Times these folks are in. -- -- -- and then I also took the average annual cost of supervise and folks who were on probation and parole. Which is about 4600. And it's our 4063. Folks that are on permission -- And multiply that by the average cost of supervised and somebody permission for world. The total number that came up with was -- 191000. -- are 191828830. Dollars that we spent just last year. On. Incarcerating. In supervise and folks on probation and parole for these marijuana secondary offenses. And -- wanna know that this is just the costs from idiocy. -- just hasn't including sort of -- row incarceration. As somebody can make -- and doesn't encompass the yum. Loss of income that families might suffer as a result of some of being incarcerated for these offenses a dozen. Encompass the loss courts in that time I mean each of these cases is going to be at least through court appearances and that's time that DA's. Aren't spending on murder case on our spending on robbery case on spending on rape case. It's you know times at -- docket did backed up for judges it's time more time that the clerks have to. Set things so it's you know distanced one million -- roughly twenty million figure. You know is just how it's us at the tip of the iceberg but it's even on its -- it's a pretty astounding. Yeah and I would add to that that know what you're seeing in other states is as they. -- sentencing laws they're able to save money on incarceration cost and then you know we're spending twenty million dollars pot a year. Just on this if you're spending less than that you can take those savings and plug that into alternatives to incarceration. Whether it's counseling people with -- drug problems. Reentry programs. Even beefing up -- parole capacity so we can better supervised. Nonviolent offenders when they're not in jail. And all those things again I'll bring recidivism rates down so it's just it's a better investment. The locking somebody up for years on and -- -- all these people go to jail is as minor offenders and they come out. You're ready to -- Violent managers say exactly exactly. And I've actually heard a couple of stories of -- -- -- and presenting an on my gosh what happened. To those who are thinking of this will just be an open door for people to use how how you respond. I would say that what has is done to -- -- Has drug -- gone down as a result of these laws and I would argue that and so. You know and I think Mississippi. Who is about ten years ahead of us on this because they reduce their some of possessions to misdemeanors in 2004. I think they're actually studies from Mississippi that showed that drug use is actually down especially marijuana use amongst. Teenagers and younger folks itself. You know why does that necessarily gonna translate into lead to Louisiana I don't know but. Clearly the trend is showing that it doesn't have any effect on the actual use. Mom and ends at at current you know I can't -- it clearly isn't having -- facts out. So we're not getting any bang for our buck in terms. Curving and count on drug use by penalizing people. And such a harsh way. Yeah I mean I have two young kids and guys I think Greg doesn't. You know I worry about them you know what what sorts of opportunities will be presented to them when they're older if I could wave a magic wand. And make the threat of marijuana or other drug use go away. I'd -- all in favor there was a law that we could pass that would make that happen great but we know from experience that doesn't work marijuana is readily available. It was when I was a teenager. And it's just aren't it's just a reality. And we there have been a number of studies is Greg mentioned the show that that home that having a tougher. Penalty in your state who really doesn't have an impact on the on the rate of usage -- variety of things. It may affect rate of usage but the penalties. Don't have much of an impact so we just doesn't it doesn't make a difference. Just -- -- happened to them right and a now but it is clearly very very harsh when you look at. And -- compared to other states who were gonna. Be joined in the next half hour without someone who has experienced that from Texas and Texas if you were saying his I'm sort of led the way as have other southern states and in Mississippi ten years ahead of us. That's tester and -- and the majority of the southern sentences of partisan of the other research that did. I connection with the sentencing commission but yet the majority. The other southern states I treat marijuana. Simple possession cases as misdemeanors regardless of the number of parents. And so you know we we're not only about -- Mississippi were back on the rest of the south and we're not talking about. You know Colorado Washington California you know we're talking about the solid south and south. You know we're we're out of balance even. -- are. Whenever our peers. In the country. Okay everyone stay with this if you will we will not go to the new -- gonna come back them are gonna meet a man who's been working on this for a long time stay with it. Once again we're talking about a proposed law. That will not change the law on marijuana possession possession on showing how much it is costing the state. To incarcerate people for second third offenses of business. Kevin Kane or against and Greg Thompson and that we have a color -- I appreciate. -- I and -- like I'm. Sounds like it could send one of these people college straight year on the annual cost of putting them in front. Indeed it right in thousand tickets and -- but the price is -- so an oral. You know Leinart has sent people. They Isidore and -- I'll let you know. Second prominent. It came about dog fighting -- man -- are. -- sentence of five years -- appropriate that. But. -- crime as well. You know that that it -- as you point during our. No I don't I think -- it's it's real violence dog fighting is real violence and it isn't it analysts. -- -- not violence against people -- property. It -- well. It's violence against living beings and oh start a -- disagree on that one that Arthur but I do appreciate your thought I think it's very appropriate may be something else. Like the war on drugs -- even more expensive. Then -- incarceration and it clearly going to be completely. I wonder what they're commentator. Thank. Thank you and thank you for calling. Sure I mean it's hard to make a really sort of broad statement about the war on drugs because. You know. I mean look something like heroin which is a real. A real hazard. I think has to be dealt with differently than say marijuana. Com but I think it's fair to say you know the to repeat the point we made a little earlier that a lot of these tough laws that don't. Prevent people from having access to these drugs and in the case of marijuana -- mean in the grand scheme of things. I just don't think to most people really regard that. As as a terrible thing even if you even if you know as as I do like I'm. I'm not arguing for a legalization. But you know I think it's a misdemeanor and felony. And that's really the bottom line of this senate bill. That's correct exit to go to the college point. You know I think drugs are problem. I mean did -- is no two ways about it but I think -- advances should be on how -- we smartly. Addressed the problem. And blackened somebody out for twenty years for a nickel bag is not really Smart way to solving that problem and so. You know we reaching we can deal with the issue of drug use drug dealing. But it just has to be done in a lot more surgical and intelligent way. We're still waiting for our call from a man from Texas who has already dealt with this as you have said Texas being a leader. But but not alone I mean other Georgia other states have all looked at this. As you were looking at it from. The point of view it's not just the financial and which is enough. But also the human and because in reality we have done any number of programs and I'm sure you've read the number of articles. On what happens once somebody gets out of jail they they've blown their opportunity in many areas to carry on with your life. And you know weakened that's another whole show but it it's it's gonna cost us in the end. What must -- jail out of it let's -- these are all pro available offenses there's still felonies. You know when you go to apply for a job. You gotta check off on application and that's gonna deter you from getting a lot of jobs for what may have been a very small amount of marijuana. And so even if you just take you know even the president go to jail much less the difficulties that are gonna come back to that. They're still social consequences. That result from these things. You know regardless of incarceration mr. Obama provide roadblocks for folks from the -- productive lives. And it's been the last few but I we have in the workforce. You know worst economy is going to be sent -- and it's it's. Equally relevant here in Louisiana I mean we we did a report recently. Told -- at the -- connection between criminal justice reform in the workforce issues. We're facing it labor shortage of about 42000. -- the -- -- 42000 jobs it would need to fill in southeast Louisiana. Over the next few years. Most of these jobs -- require much more than a high school diploma. That's a lot of these. Ex offenders who what -- many from our young man and and could be capable of filling these positions. You abide by incarcerating them pulling these periods of time we're sort of taking him out of the workforce and and even music as used as Greg said I mean you know coming out as Salant. It can be very difficult to to even get your foot in the door so so it's problem as a kind of ripple effect here in Louisiana. Well we are now joined by a Vick Bryant ready. Who is up with the Texas public policy foundation and I appreciate you joining us so sir you've already gone through this and can perhaps give us a perspective on. On what it means. Sure -- I think so unfortunately I missed the first that part of -- -- I'm not exactly sure more specifically what you wanted to look at -- Let's look at what we're talking about as the senate bill that were now -- Going to address on Tuesday that is going to try to say that our our laws on marijuana possession. After the first offense which is -- one year thing becomes a felony for the second offense up to five years. And then a third offense up to twenty years and we're looking at what that's costing both financially. And in non human cost. Show. You perhaps have a perspective on that. -- Europe Italy right that we can do it here intact that weren't talking to you front and we've also worked on similar bill. In states like Georgia and Ohio. Pennsylvania South Dakota. And you know all the places he's been very broad criminal justice reform bill in just focus on marijuana. But certainly they're one and the contribute question is it anyways the most significant part of the question here. And I think it's important to note that you know drug. Can't -- entry effect on society and there's a sensible reason why they remain illegal. But these -- very -- That. That you treat the often for the first with incarceration. Rather than the treatment -- In an effort to get people asking addiction problem. That's very counterproductive. And unfortunately. He pointed out and leaping from -- little counterproductive -- in the country and for. Guys -- absolutely and you know speaker on -- noted -- in other states so many other states have already made changes in this regard him and one of the points we've made with our reform campaign is that. No we're not really looking to do anything that's out of the box here and we're looking at what other states have already done and it's one of the Agassi advantages of our our Federalist system as you can sort of learn from the experiences of other states and states like Texas. Have already succeeded. In not only reducing move their incarceration rate in saving a lot of money. Now along with that but actually you know bringing down crime rates and you can you know you can do all of those things and we just need to follow the path of other people forty blazed for us. Mr. -- did you -- -- in working with the other states on I don't know with a time frame is on how long. Those other states changed -- laws but we were talking earlier about does it when new. Lessen the penalties. Doesn't encouraging usage. Well that's it. Interest important questions like can say. Very directly very confidently -- that it will increase cry. And I can claim that based on context for example. You know it's it's so difficult there's so many different factors that go into questions that you -- I mean they're just supply and demand questions based on. Environmental factors help America that impact question like that so it is very difficult. You know to kind of control for all of these they're able. But I think what is important to note is it here intact. After refocus to war. But treatment based model in 2000. And where we ended our drug court and focus on making. Parole and probation stronger that we'll -- condom. And make sure that we have a good -- to monitor people's community what -- rather than focusing. So heavily on incarceration. We -- the cry which had been falling into -- for many years continued to fall and it fell -- actually. -- more rapidly than it did in other beer can stay clean up a low crime rate. In fact we've had in 1968. And yet we've done by actually. Reducing the number -- may not by increasing you know in just the last three years we shut down to recruit that tech. It's really remarkable achievement to have been shutting them down and define the crime rate continue to drop. It's very difficult to argue that you may be kind of changes to your drug you'll inevitably line. It drug use and crime rates begin entry. Packages and a different experience. Which of course one has it been tough on crime and take the country. Do we have drug courts here we do -- Orleans parish there. I am still little limited. But those -- mean from what I've just observed anecdotally and seen clients do. As a very very very did things on the judges usually do them. You know they they do it with Tom. Now they're very into each person individually you know that there want to do everything they can't. Encourage that person and individual says seek the treatment they need to do in two. And basically -- whatever addictions and they had and so it's and it's a very good programs -- very intensive program. And I think one that should be. Made more available to folks throughout the state. I hope everyone stays with this we will be back in our caller Daniel please and please stay on the phone as well we'll take a break we'll be right back. Again we're talking about -- the up penalties for marijuana possession. A law that's not going to is proposed and will go before the senate on Tuesday. And we are joined by Kevin Kane and great Thompson and also by -- French ready -- with the Texas public policy foundation. Who has in enlightening us on what's been happening in Texas and certainly in other states who were dressing exactly what we're looking yet. And the -- the fiscal smarts of it all and and when I'm really hearing you say mr. -- is that it's it's not going to impact crime. We're not going to have more crime by doing this. That you won't -- -- -- -- crime scale that it hasn't been the experience another state but it. Have taken the problem on you know we we have any experience and -- in 2000. We were troubled by an eight entry that we -- different budget board their current thinking for a state legislature. We were told -- -- -- growing very rapidly. And because he'll have more people you'll definitely more criminals going to need more -- in fact the number that will welcome. You present that by the year twenty well. And it actually -- -- your maker that Arctic recommendation like that because there was about a plan. And yet the later I think to their great credit and governor Kerry in great credit. But -- -- got to get a better way to get because their budget surplus doesn't mean that everybody comes running to the trough and pick what they can't. We have to find a way to do that spending so much money. So EU recommendation looked -- two billion dollars and on the lookout and content and then. -- 240. Which is a much smaller. And they -- took from the things that we talked about electric and things like better parole probation expanding drug court -- And that led to it that we talked about the current -- and it also has what two or Scotland slightly. -- appropriate to make. The lowest crime rate. -- bet that's what blows my mind. Hold on with this Daniel you've been holding and I appreciate the call. Hired or. Are you all. Should the paradigm in with a jump from Texas has talked about in the what happens when people start to -- that. What to expect it to marijuana. -- Doesn't marijuana user actually host anybody. -- deeper we. It will you know it -- be talking in the country about people being you know he controls -- Well. Why are we incarcerate people like it seemed. That obviously. You share which. Typically. -- -- we don't we try but the one this year like corporation. -- dollars. It's big business -- should we take out these people. Could it apartments. Is. If you see them so it Clinton and that we people. It is excellent just dormitory style and it's much cheaper in court Hillary. Won by -- Someone else so. It's. In apartment. Sentence. It is so we need to -- -- -- At the -- -- Austin at a bail out in house in the administration's. The rules committee and beautiful inside but this year. But they keep that money people on our house bill would reduce. -- -- -- That's not. Important but it's -- strong. In one side. Daniel I appreciate your call and your thoughts on how are you going to handle. That the resistance to this well. Well does is to get to that college point and don't get into that as well just to give you some actual date on that down just for the -- marijuana seconds and parents alone. On him. -- 1697245. Dollar interest given last year took his share of Q house these offenders and sides want to be able to give you that night it three on information. I think to arm kind of overcomes its grip that the sheriff's association. And that -- DA seems to have on the legislative process is gonna take a very big. Bipartisan push from lots of different groups -- much different voices to kind of overcome the power they have on the legislatures and I think is up to people. To let their legislators know that this is okay. And that's the name of the game and hopefully Daniel will call and others who feel passionately about it -- to legislator no I want to thank mr. ready for joining us very very much. And and both Kevin Kane and Greg Thompson but we'll be right back stay with this stay with this next hour -- -- -- -- -- and sweets sugar and -- Now let's go to the newsroom.