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Incarcerating Budding Entrepreneurs a Mistake

January 26, 2003

Re "Marijuana Found in Home; Two Arrested," Jan. 12:

As I read the story of the two fellows in Tustin busted for growing 149 marijuana plants in an apartment, I realized the TV commercial playing in the background was a government message telling of how the black market for drugs supports a line of distribution that has terrorists and such at the upper tiers.

We do realize, don't we, that the quantity represents no more than a mom-and-pop operation in terms of distribution capability? Potential customers of the two Tustin fellows -- whose money would have been returned to our own local economy -- are now more likely to buy marijuana with a significant portion of that money leaving our community.

We also realize, don't we, that the vast majority of those who choose to consume marijuana do so responsibly and because they find the effect much more agreeable than having a martini or a beer. And that they come from all walks of life and all socio-economic backgrounds. In this time of extreme shortfalls to budgets statewide, does it really make sense to commit precious resources to the investigation, arrest, prosecution and incarceration of people like the two Tustin fellows?

Quick fact: California state prison population is 22% non-violent drug offenders -- 36,000 inmates. Annual cost of incarceration: $25,000 each. Total annual cost: $900 million.

Rick L. Root

Westminster

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