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War on drugs may never have ended

Tennessee residents might be surprised to learn that there were 1.57 million incidents of people taken into custody in 2016 for violations of drug laws according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. That is an increase of 5.63 percent over 2015, and that number was more than three times higher than for violent crimes in the aggregate. Of those taken into custody, there were 1,330,401 who were detained for drug possession.

Furthermore, 41 percent of those taken into custody on drug charges were taken into custody for charges related to marijuana. These numbers are not considered to be a reflection of public attitudes toward marijuana or drugs in general. According to a report from the Drug Policy Alliance, drug policy should not result in law-abiding citizens being sent to jail for simply possessing a controlled substance. It also claims that there is a consensus that people should not be taken into custody for using or possessing a drug.

Drug policy may have a disparate impact on minorities as well as lead to higher rates of detention and deportation. Permanent residents may be eligible for deportation if they are caught possessing any quantity of any drug. The only exception would be for a first-offense possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. Those who are deported for a drug offense might not be allowed to return to the United States.

Anyone who is charged with a drug crime may face significant consequences if convicted. It is possible to spend time in jail or prison, pay a fine or be put on probation. A conviction on a drug charge may also make it harder to find work or get into school. A criminal lawyer may be able to review a case and create a defense to the charge in an effort to obtain a favorable outcome.

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TBA | Tennessee Bar Association
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