Effects of Marijuana Prohibition

Are people actually arrested for marijuana?

Yes. In 2007 alone, there were 872,720 marijuana-related arrests in the United States. (89% of these were for possession alone.) That’s one marijuana arrest every 36 seconds and more than the populations of the state of Wyoming (522,830) and the city of Buffalo, New York (292,648) combined.

How much does marijuana prohibition cost?

By adding law enforcement costs and depriving governments of the revenue that could be gained by taxing marijuana sales, prohibition costs U.S. taxpayers $41.8 billion per year, according to a 2007 estimate by public policy researcher Jon B. Gettman, Ph.D. The report, “Lost Taxes and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws,” is based primarily on government estimates of the U.S. marijuana supply, prices, and arrests.

A more conservative 2005 estimate by Harvard University economist Dr. Jeffrey Miron is still staggering at $10-$14 billion per year. See www.prohibitioncosts.org for more information.

Wouldn’t repealing marijuana prohibition make it easier for teens to buy marijuana?

Marijuana prohibition has not prevented a dramatic increase in marijuana use by teenagers. In fact, the overall rate of marijuana use in the U.S. has risen by roughly 4,000% since marijuana was first outlawed in 1937, and independent studies by RAND Europe and the U.S. National Research Council have reported that marijuana prohibition appears to have little or no impact on rates of use.

Prohibition may actually increase teen access to marijuana. Sellers of regulated products like tobacco and alcohol can be fined or lose their licenses if they sell to minors. Prohibition guarantees that marijuana dealers are not subject to any such regulations. Drug dealers don’t ask for ID.

Countries that have reformed their marijuana laws have not seen an increase in teen use. Since Britain ended most marijuana possession arrests in 2004, the rate of marijuana use by 16- to-19-year-olds (the youngest group included in government drug use surveys) has dropped. In the Netherlands, where adults have been allowed to possess and purchase small amounts of marijuana from regulated businesses since 1976, the rate of marijuana use by adults and teens is lower than in the U.S.

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