Do you think that you can spend more than a year in jail for just simple marijuana possession of a small amount of the drug? Well, ABC’s new show The Rookie wants you to believe that is the case (Tuesday, November 20, 2018, Season 1, Episode 5). But it couldn’t be further from the truth. The Crime Prevention Research Center recently completed a study for Arizona (there are similar numbers of California where the show is taking place, but we have these handy), and it is clear that conviction for just simple possession won’t get you any prison time, let alone a felony with 5-years served in prison. The defendant accepted a plea deal, and apparently would have spent even more years in prison if he’d fought the charge!
The number of prisoners in the Arizona state prison system for marijuana possession is very small compared to the number of arrests. There were 21,727 arrests for marijuana possession in just one year, 2007. But only 12,100 people entered the Arizona state prison system for that charge over the entire 32.5 years from 1985 to 2017 period. From 2013 to 2017, there were a total of 729 commitments. And those few who go to jail have been convicted of possession multiple times before. Being arrested for marijuana possession is exceedingly unlikely to result in a prison sentence, and the few misdemeanor convictions of multiple repeat offenders result in prison stays of less than a year.
Whatever one’s views on legalization, it is important for the media not to depict the current system so inaccurately.