Ah, the smell of burning bud. When I lived in the dorms in college, we were allowed to smoke cigarettes in the common areas inside the buildings, but we were never allowed to smoke the "evil weed" because it was illegal. Whatever. I smoked, I inhaled, I was a stoner. As the years went on, I smoked less and less and, frankly, now I can only tolerate medical marijuana in edible form (which I buy out of state). Then again, it's still illegal in Utah, so, of course, I wouldn't have any in my possession. But what if I did get busted for sparking a bowl or having a joint in Salt Lake City? Would I go to jail? According to my cop friends, I'd likely get only a ticket because the county jail is running full and beds are needed for serious felons.
My sources tell me that the jail conditions are such that city police need to check in to see if they can arrest or just issue tickets for possession of heroin, marijuana or meth or if found working as a prostitute. Criminals, users and dealers are no doubt delighted at the new policy because they know it's a challenge to be booked into jail.
I saw a report of Salt Lake City Police activity for one day recently in the area of the Road Home Shelter, and here are some highlights: $12,582 in cash seized or taken as evidence; 13 dealers arrested, 5 buyers arrested, 2 arrested for "offer and arrange," 9 "ICE" detainers of people who may get deported. How many actually went to jail? One. And that dealer is in the country illegally. My cop friends tell me you cannot be deported unless you are convicted of a crime. If you do get hauled to jail, it's likely you will get bailed out soon after. That one bust/arrest two weeks ago was of the same guy, arrested for the same thing seven times and had either been given tickets or had bailed out ... and is still on the streets happily dealing away.
Police intervention is necessary to stop or change misconduct, not to punish. If law enforcement doesn't have the tools (jail space) to improve a situation, then all they have are empty threats. In a way, it's good to decriminalize punishments for nonviolent crimes like smoking dope or being a prostitute. Society has to have tools, though, to resolve conflict and solve crime, and right now, our system is a mess. So smoke on, dude, because if you get busted ... chances are you'll just get a ticket! (But don't quote me on it!)