Drug Law

No Kidding: U.S. Report Says Marijuana Prohibition Doesn’t Work

| by Marijuana Policy Project

A new report released today by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy uses figures provided by the U.S. government to highlight the unquestionable failure of America’s marijuana prohibition to accomplish a single one of its goals.

Reviewing 20 years of data, the report shows that despite drastically increased spending on enforcement efforts, including near record-level arrests and seizures, marijuana has become cheaper, more potent, and more available than ever. It concludes, “the legalization of cannabis, combined with the implementation of strict regulatory tools could help reduce cannabis-related harms, as research has demonstrated is successful in tobacco and alcohol control, when strictly enforced.”

Among the report’s findings:

  • The annual overall budget for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy increased by more than 600%; growing from approximately $1.5 billion in 1981 to more than $18 billion in 2002 (the last year reliable figures were available).
  • Between 1990 and 2006, marijuana-related arrests increased by 150%, while marijuana seizures increased by more than 400%.
  • The estimated retail cost of marijuana decreased from $37 per gram in 1990 to $15 per gram in 2007.
  • Marijuana has remained almost “universally available” to American youth during the last 30 years of prohibition.

The report is very clear in its endorsement of a regulated marijuana market over simply a decriminalized model, in which criminal penalties against users are removed, but the sale of marijuana would remain illegal, and therefore, in the hands of criminals. “Without regulatory controls allowing for limited distribution – as employed for other psychoactive substances such as alcohol and tobacco – organized crime groups continue to exercise control over the cannabis market,” the report states.

It goes on to explain that regulations could include “age restrictions, restricting driving or operating machinery while intoxicated, limiting hours of sale and outlet density, restricting bulk sales and limiting potency of legal cannabis.”

Boiled down, this is the same message that MPP and others have advocated for years: marijuana regulation is a far superior policy alternative to the chaotic and ineffective nature of prohibition.

On November 2, voters in California will have a historic opportunity to choose that superior alternative by voting yes on Prop 19.

You can read the entire ICSDP report here, or a summarized two-page fact sheet here. I highly recommend it.