Scott Croteau’s T&G article about marijuana citations and their discontents was quite good, in a connect-the-dots kind of way.
The great thing about the article — though it’s unsaid — is that it compares Leiceister’s marijuana citations (2010 census population = 10,970) versus Dudley’s (2010 census = 11,390). Both towns have a small college, and they’re pretty close in population size, diversity (or lack thereof), and per capita income.
Unfortunately, the article has a lot of apples and oranges. We’re told that Leicester has 126 unpaid citations that have been issued over the last two years; we don’t know how many have been paid (or issued, for that matter). (We do know that “100+ decriminalized tickets” were issued in 2009, according to the Leicester PD website.)
We know that Dudley has 8 unpaid from the last seven months (out of a total of 22). If you assume that there’s been a similar rate of paid/unpaid (and I wouldn’t necessarily assume), that rate would be about 88 over a total of two years. (Where, again, Leicester issued more than 100 in the first year alone.)
According to the article, Worcester (2010 census = 181,045) has had 58 citations from September 11, 2009 to March 3, 2011, or roughly 18 months. Again, assuming a similar rate, that would be about 77 citations in two years’ time.
That means that Leicester likely issued more tickets in one year (2009) than a similarly sized town did over two years, and that it issued more tickets in one year than a city sixteen times its population did over the course of two years.
That, my friends, is the real story.
Here’s what would help flesh this story out:
1) We need to know how many tickets Leicester has issued over the past two years. Worcester’s rate of tickets paid vs. issued is 64% (37 paid/58 issued). Dudley’s is also 64% (14 paid/22 issued). Perhaps Leicester’s rate is the same; if they’ve issued roughly 340 tickets (which seems a distinct possibility), their rate is roughly equivalent to that of Worcester or Dudley.
2) It would help if we were comparing the same periods in this article. Comparing a seven month period to a two-year period (with incomplete data) to an 18 month period makes for difficult reading.
3) It would help to know what a good rate of return is on these types of tickets.
The larger question, of course, is why the town of Leicester assumes that ticketing for possession of marijuana can make enough of a budget difference to pay for more than half a dozen part-time officers, or why Chief Hurley feels the primary reason people like me voted for this law is that we felt it would be a new revenue stream.
I didn’t vote for this because I wanted small-town cops in someone’s business about a relatively minor offense, and it doesn’t bother me in the least that it’s unenforceable.
I knew when I voted for it that it was unenforceable. That was the point.
I am straight edge. I really don’t see much difference between someone using that drug and using a legal drug like alcohol. I certainly don’t see why someone should be punished for having a small amount of marijuana when they can carry a fifth of whiskey with no consequence.
And I should clarify: I don’t think Chief Hurley’s bad. I wish the Worcester PD had a weekly column like his. I drive through Leicester quite a bit, and I’ve never noticed predatory speed enforcement like I have in other towns.
But I think he’s really wrong about this, and it’s really unfortunate that he’s taken the law as a fiat from the electorate to offset municipal budget cuts by targeting stoners. And I wish someone had asked why he’s taken it that way.