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La Repubblica, Italy

Record Lows for Offenses by Minors
in California after Decriminalization of Marijuana

Translated By Juliana DiBona

30 November 2012

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

Italy - La Repubblica - Original Article (Italian)

A study by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice indicates a 50 percent reduction in drug arrests since Schwarzenegger’s law entered into force [in 2010] decriminalizing soft drugs. There has been a 16 percent decline in violent crimes and the number of arrested juveniles, from an average of 20 arrests of children per day to seven arrests according to authorities.

There is now 20 percent less juvenile crime, the lowest level since the state of California began monitoring it in 1954. And according to the study by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, this decrease between 2010 and 2011 is due to the decriminalization of marijuana.

The research examined 18-year-old minors arrested in California over the past 80 years. Not only was juvenile crime at its lowest level in the period from 2010 to 2011, but the decline also seems to have been affected by a measure taken by Governor Schwarzenegger, which reduced the offense of possession of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction. According to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, in that year murders fell by 26 percent, the number of arrests for violent crimes declined 16 percent and most significantly, drug arrests were reduced by 50 percent. In the case of drug-related arrests, the bulk of the decline is due to the lower number of arrests for possession of marijuana. In the previous year, arrests for marijuana accounted for 64 percent of all drug related arrests, and in 2011 they were reduced to 46 percent. These numbers make California the U.S. state with the quickest decrease in youth crime in the shortest time ever.

Possession of a small amount of marijuana in California is now classified as a minor offense. If it is in excess of an ounce of "personal possession,” the authorities may impose a fine of about $100, depending on the amount. But above all, the law ordered by Schwarzenegger affects children, not only those over 21 years old. In fact, it is a wide decriminalization to prevent minors from being introduced to court and prison facilities. According to Mike Males, an expert on juvenile crime and a former professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, these facilities mean "getting arrested for pot is more harmful than the drug itself," with respect to other potential outcomes of Schwarzenegger’s law.

Meanwhile, the state of California declares that compared to the previous average of 20 children arrested daily, that number is now about seven. And according to research, the determining factors in the reduction of juvenile crime are the lenient legislation against the possession of marijuana and the general improvement of economic conditions of the younger segment of the population in California. Elements such as detection methods, harsh sentences as deterrents, and demographic changes are not considered relevant.



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