These arrests come at a high price to the District. Marijuana arrests take up valuable time of law enforcement officers, who could be spending their time preventing more serious crimes. After an arrest, the District incurs costly expenditures for processing, public defenders, and trials. For those who are convicted and sentenced, incarceration adds another expense.
Beyond the financial costs to the District, there is a far more important cost: the devastating toll marijuana arrests take on our residents and neighborhoods. Every person who is arrested for possessing small quantities of marijuana can be legally discriminated against in employment, housing, and education. These individuals often lose their right to food assistance and other forms of public support. Furthermore, it is well known that even a short period of incarceration can do serious harm to an individual’s mental and physical health. And when we incarcerate someone, we also risk punishing that person’s family and community, especially when parents are taken away from their children. The arrest data shows that the District’s African-American community has borne the brunt of these costs.